Violent crimes drop sharply in locked down South Africa

A man carries a cabinet as South African Police Services (SAPS) officers remove a burning barricade outside the Booysens informal settlement, during a protest in Johannesburg, on May 21, 2020. (Photo by MARCO LONGARI / AFP)

Violent crimes have more than halved in South Africa since the country went under coronavirus lockdown, police statistics showed Friday, but cross-border smuggling of alcohol and cigarettes have spiked.

Statistics released by Police Minister Bheki Cele showed that categories of violent crimes have declined by between 49 and 82.8 percent since March 27 – compared to the same period last year.

“In relation to serious and violent crime, …there was a dramatic decline in especially the contact crime category which includes domestic violence,” Cele told a news conference.

House and business robberies have also come down, he said.

South Africa, which has one of the highest crime rates in the world, has recorded the most numbers of coronavirus infections in sub-Saharan Africa, with 19,137 cases, including 369 fatalities.

It is observing one of the world’s strictest lockdowns which include a ban on cigarette and alcohol sales.

“We have also observed an increase in smuggling of contraband (liquor and tobacco) between South Africa’s land borders with Botswana, eSwatini, Lesotho, Mozambique and Zimbabwe,” Cele said.

Nearly a quarter of a million people have been charged for breaching the lockdown regulations.

Almost 230,000 were charged mainly for violating alcohol and cigarette bans as well as for illegal gatherings and failing to stay at home.

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