South Africa

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Sixty percent of lockdown arrests in Cape Town were shopkeepers selling alcohol and cigarettes

Sixty percent of lockdown arrests in Cape Town were shopkeepers selling alcohol and cigarettes
Cigarette butts pile up in an ashtray in central Singapore, 12 June 2012. (EPA/STEPHEN MORRISON)

The City of Cape Town’s law enforcement has been kept busy arresting those selling banned items like cigarettes and alcohol as well as looters of supermarkets and food trucks. At the same time, the City reported marked drops in the number of trauma calls.

Cape Town’s law enforcement has been shutting down outlets that were illegally selling alcohol and cigarettes while also trying to ensure that food truck drivers are able to safely deliver essential food items.

In the last two weeks, there has also been a worrying increase in the looting of alcohol retailers, and more recently, the looting of food retailers and trucks transporting food items,” said JP Smith, mayoral committee member of safety and security.

On 23 April 2020 law enforcement was out in a number of places across the province where supermarkets and food trucks were being looted. Smith said he was present when a food truck was looted on the R300 near Mitchell’s Plain.

“It was violent and it was challenging for law enforcement. However, I was impressed by the Public Order’s response,” said Smith during on online Safety and Security press briefing on Friday morning.

Smith identified the R300 at Stock Road and Jakes Gerwel Drive as a hot spot and said two ambulances have been robbed in the area.

“There have been numerous food truck companies contacting us regarding the safety of their food trucks and drivers and we’re working to keep them safe,” said Smith. 

Smith admits that it’s been difficult trying to ensure that all the food trucks are able to safely deliver food as there are a large number of food trucks on the roads. 

“We’ve had good information and tip-offs from residents. These are residents who understand that if food truck drivers decide to strike because of their safety concerns then it will result in food insecurity,” said Smith. 

Metro police have also been arresting shopkeepers who have continued to sell cigarettes and alcohol despite the ban on doing so. 

In the last week, 60% of the arrests made were shopkeepers selling alcohol and cigarettes; 549 people have been arrested over the lockdown for selling prohibited items. In total, 1,326 arrests have been made including for armed robbery and attempted housebreaking.

Those arrested may appear in court for first appearances or bail applications unless other arrangements are made.

In total, law enforcement has confiscated 1,421 units of alcohol and 1,245 packs of cigarettes. Metro police have confiscated more than a million cigarettes and 534 units of alcohol. 

“The confiscated items have been booked in as evidence at the respective police stations where the suspects were detained and will form part of the court proceedings. It is up to the SAPS to determine what happens to these items once the cases are finalised,” said Smith.

Since the lockdown, the Fire and Rescue Service has seen a 74% drop in the number of trauma calls, a 37% drop in the number of informal residential fires responded to and a 60% drop in the number of medical calls.

The enforcement of law and order has not been without criticism and controversy. Earlier this month, three Cape Town metro police officers were suspended for harassing and verbally abusing residents on the Cape Flats. 

On Thursday 23 April 2020, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that there would be “a gradual and phased recovery of economic activity”. This will be done through five levels of lockdown.

Level 5, where we currently are, imposes a national lockdown while Level 1 has the least strict conditions. There will be separate national, provincial, metropolitan and district levels.

The Western Cape has 1,279 confirmed Covid-19 cases; 788 are locally transmitted cases. The province has the most Covid-19 related deaths, currently 28.

On 1 May 2020, the country will move to Level 4 which, among other things, will allow the sale of cigarettes. DM

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