Police Minister Bheki Cele has doubled down on his support for the ban on alcohol sales during levels 5 and 4 of the lockdown, saying it has “done wonders” in the fight against Covid-19.
Addressing the portfolio committee on police and select committee on security and justice in a joint virtual meeting on Wednesday, he said the current liquor ban had more to do with health than crime, but the “unavailability of alcohol reduced crime so much”.
Cele added this had “opened up hospitals to do what they’re supposed to do”.
“Most murders are around the alcohol. Rapes, they are around the alcohol. It has been decided alcohol cannot be allowed to be sold under stage four.
“The unavailability of alcohol has done wonders in the fight against Covid-19.”
Last week, Cele announced provisional crime statistics which showed huge drops in violent crimes of up to 60% and 70% in some categories for the lockdown period.
He said murder cases have dropped by 1,110, with 432 being reported, compared to 1,542 during the same period the previous year, a drop of about 72%.
Reported rape cases decreased by 371 to 2,537, compared to 2,908 in the same period last year.
Attempted murder was down to 443 cases – a decrease of 857 from 1,300 last year.
Mosque arrests, apology
Addressing another matter on Wednesday, he said he did not apologise for arresting Muslims at a mosque in Mpumalanga during the lockdown, but only apologised for the blasphemy by the police officers.
Over the weekend, a video circulated on social media in which police officers are seen entering what appears to be a mosque, seemingly hurling verbal abuse at congregants who are ordered to lie on the floor.
“Are you bigger than the president? Is Mohammed bigger than the president?” a man asks the congregants in the video.
On Sunday, Cele issued an apology to the Muslim community for blasphemous remarks made during the arrest.
He made it clear he only apologised for the blasphemy, not for the arrest, as the worshippers had broken the law.
Cele said the police “went to the crime scene, not the mosque”.