Lockdown liquor store looting condemned

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Police Minister Bheki Cele condemned burglary and looting of at least 16 liquor outlets in Western Cape since the COVID-19 nationwide lockdown started.

Minister Cele visited the province at the weekend accompanied by Deputy Minister Cassel Mathale, National SAPS Commissioner, General Khehla Sithole and Deputy National Commissioner, Lieutenant General Sandile Mfazi.

Cele commended Western Cape Provincial Commissioner, Lieutenant General Yolisa Matakata and her team, for the arrest of 21 suspects, four allegedly behind the first looting incident at a Shoprite Liquor Store in Langa over the first weekend of lockdown.

The Minister was concerned about alleged involvement of police in some liquor related crimes during lockdown.

This follows the arrest of two warrant officers from the Delft FCS Unit. The officers were arrested with a liquor store manager and cashier in Strand. The arrest followed a tip-off that saw police pounce on the suspects buying liquor allegedly for resale illegally elsewhere.

In Mpumalanga, two police at SAPS Pienaar were arrested on 10 April for defeating the ends of justice after the state vehicle they were driving was stopped and found illegally escorting three bakkies, all loaded to capacity with liquor.

The three vehicles allegedly belong to a tavern owner arrested with two other drivers for contravening lockdown regulations in relation to the restriction on the movement of liquor.

In line with the SAPS Anti-Corruption Strategy, Sithole sanctioned urgent departmental investigations into the incidents through which, if found guilty, the members could face dismissal.

An urgent meeting between Cele and SAPS management is on the cards where police leadership will engage liquor retailers to address the problem and work on a collaborative strategy to mitigating it.

The Minister issued a stern warning to those undermining the efforts of government to curb the spread of the Coronavirus.

“The general crime picture since the COVID-19 lockdown reflects a decrease and incidents must be intercepted and perpetrators arrested.

“Law abiding citizens will continue to work with law enforcement against criminals as we ensure survival of the human race against COVID-19,” said the Minister acknowledging public co-operation with tip-offs.

Wrapping up the Western Cape visit, Cele commended businesses in Mbekweni and Kraaifontein for their part in ensuring shoppers observe social distancing and have access to sanitisers entering and exiting stores.

The Minister also noted the high risk of exposure to infections in relation to positioning of street hawkers too close to each other on pavements, with little attention to lockdown protocols.

“The Provincial SAPS will engage the provincial government in finding a solution to ensuring licensed vendors operate within the confines of the COVID-19 Disaster Management Lockdown Regulations,” said the Minister.