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Ramaphosa warns COVID-19 lockdown criminals

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President Cyril Ramaphosa
President Cyril Ramaphosa

by SAVIOUS KWINIKA 
JOHANNESBURG – PRESIDENT Cyril Ramaphosa has warned criminals making the most of the ongoing lockdown against coronavirus (COVID-19) to perpetrate violent crimes around South Africa.

The president spoke as the country, which is worst affected by the virus in the continent, experienced incidents of murder, gender-based violence (GBV), burglary and vandalism.

This has dented the compliance by a majority of locals to the lockdown that is to run until the end of April.

“While the majority of South Africans continue to respect the rules of the lockdown and the rights of others, there are some among us seeking to exploit this crisis for their own sinister ends,” Ramaphosa said.

He lamented the rape of an elderly woman by men who allegedly pretended to be soldiers to gain entry into her home in the KwaZulu-Natal Province, the murder of a Soweto teenage girl and the murder of a policewoman who was shot and killed while attending to a domestic violence call in Johannesburg last week.

“Unfortunately, criminals were also preying on the weak and vulnerable,” Ramaphosa stated.

“It is disturbing that during a time of such immense difficulty for our country, women and girls are being terrorised inside their own homes, forcing them to make desperate calls for help.”

According to the president, the number of calls to the GBV National Command Centre has increased since the lockdown began on 27 March.

During the lockdown period that was initially scheduled to run until this Thursday but has been extended by two weeks, schools have been burgled, trashed or burnt to the ground.

Some liquor stores around the country have also been broken into.

The sale of liquor has been outlawed during the restrictions.

“It is despicable that criminals are using this period of the lockdown as a cover to break the law at a time when our law-enforcement authorities are occupied with supporting the national effort to contain the pandemic,” Ramaphosa said.

He issued a stern warning to perpetrators.

“I have a message for those callous criminals who think they can take advantage. The criminal justice system is not on leave.”

He said law enforcement authorities will deal with those who transgress the law.

“You (perpetrators) will be arrested. You will be tried and you will be put behind bars,” Ramaphosa warned.

South Africa has confirmed more than 2 170 cases of COVID-19 and 25 deaths at the time of going to press.

– CAJ News