The tables are about to turn on cash-in-transit robbers as minister of police Bheki Cele described the recent spate of heists as “terrorism”, vowing that police will use tough tactics to stop it.
Between Monday and Tuesday, at least 13 people involved in heist syndicates have been arrested. One of them was the second-most wanted cash-in-transit heist kingpin, Cele said.
He was giving a briefing at the National Press Club in Pretoria, accompanied by Kevin Twiname of the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric) and Hawks boss Advocate Godfrey Lebeya yesterday.
There had been violent attacks on cash-in-transit vehicles, with at least 159 reported nationally this year. Seventy-one of them involved use of explosives to access the vaults, Twiname said.
In total, 91 people were injured during these heists and 67 of them were guards, who were either injured or fatally wounded, said Twiname.
Cele added: “We are taking every [officer] out of the barracks, especially the specialised unit and giving them the best equipment.
“But again, the criminals tried on Tuesday in Tzaneen. We responded … we intercepted those that were involved in another one on June 4 in Witbank.
“We intercepted another in Vosloorus and arrested six.”
Heavily armed men have used rifles, AK-47s and explosives to stage several violent heists on vehicles carrying cash in recent months.
School principal Christopher Mathebula was killed by a stray bullet when he was caught up in a heist on his way home in Olifantsfontein last week. Some of the weapons retrieved have been linked to the police or the South African National Defence Force.
“Cash heist is terrorism. It’s not only a heist. A few days back, we visited the family of Mathebula in Tembisa, who had nothing to do with the cash heist, but he was killed. Simply put, we are beginning to turn the corner … No one will stage a heist, kill police and go home. No one will be able to do that … This means we are arresting one criminal per hour.”
“You must remember that for six years, crime intelligence didn’t have a head. Now we have a head. For some time, the Hawks did not have a head. Now they do.”
Of the 71 attacks on vehicles, 49 of the vehicles were a total writeoff, Twiname said.
“Those vehicles cost between R1.1 million and R1.4 million each. The loss alone of the vehicles equates to R67 million.”