Booze, crime and police officers: Bheki Cele on SA being ‘safer’ during lockdown

Police minister Bheki Cele said alcohol is a major factor contributing to crime in SA. File photo.
Image: Esa Alexander

Police minister Bheki Cele said SA has been much safer during the lockdown and ban on alcohol sales. He made the comment while delivering the quarterly crime statistics.

Impact of alcohol 

The minister said alcohol is a major factor contributing to crime in SA. He said during the ban on the sale of alcohol under the lockdown, there had been a noticeable drop in contact crimes.

“It is important to acknowledge that the unavailability of alcohol had a role to play. This is evident in the decrease in the numbers of contact crimes, which plummeted by 37.4%. There were 53,891 cases of murder, attempted murder, assault, common robbery and common assault reported compared to the same period in the previous year.

“The drop in crime cases is also demonstrated by a 29.4% decline in contact-related crimes, made up of arson and malicious damage to property.”

SA was safer during lockdown 

Cele said there was an increase in burglaries and robberies at non-residential premises, like bottle stores and schools, but there was a decrease in residential burglaries and robberies.

“During this time, South Africans were safer in their homes. Burglaries at residential premises [robberies] dropped by more than 30% while burglaries at non-residential premises increased by 9.1%.

“Worryingly, there has been an increased number of attacks on schools and liquor outlets during this time with 2,692 burglaries reported at educational premises and 1,249 liquor outlets targeted.”​

Police officers

The minister expressed concern about the arrests of law enforcement officers who were in violation of the disaster management act. He said there are also ongoing investigations into allegations of police brutality.

Cele said 163 officers were arrested from the start of the lockdown for violating the lockdown regulations they were meant to enforce.

He said: “We’re hopeful the Independent Police Investigative Directorate will bring finality into the investigations into allegations of police brutality, including allegations of death at the hands of police and the armed forces.”

Health is the priority

Cele said: “The ban on alcohol sales had nothing to do with crime. It had all to do with the health system during Covid-19 but the crime situation benefited out of that.”

Violations of the disaster management act

The minister said close to 300,000 people now have criminal records after violating the disaster management act. Cele said he was unable to say whether these records would be expunged as the correctional services and justice ministry is assessing them.

He said 298,252 people were arrested and charged with contravention of the act, and that 181,579 people were released on warnings to appear before the courts.

Cele said 28,337 of those arrested were found guilty of violations around liquor, gatherings, transport, business and cross border-related offences.

“Unfortunately, they will come out with criminal records, and it is not our aim to criminalise South Africans,” he said.

BY CEBELIHLE BHENGU

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