Sakhiseni Nxumalo
Senior journalist
3 minute read
2 Jul 2022

Crime vs load shedding

Sakhiseni Nxumalo

Sapu says the power outages are having a serious impact on their crime-fighting efforts across the country.

Criminals are once again taking advantage of load shedding as communities are subjected to long hours of darkness.

This as the SA Police Union (Sapu) has expressed its concerns about the safety of police, who are mostly not even equipped with torches, during the dark hours.

Sapu said there was also a considerable delay caused by load shedding on registering case numbers, resulting in a delay in suspects appearing in court.

During the week, Eskom announced the implementation of Stage 6 load shedding for the first time since 2019.

The power utility said this was due to workers’ absenteeism remaining high, making it difficult for them to conduct routine maintenance on its systems and other operational requirements.

Stage 6 was implemented until Thursday, with Stage 2 expected over the weekend.

The union said the power outages are having a serious impact on their crime-fighting efforts across the country.

Lesiba Thobakgale, Sapu national spokesperson, said their members in the stations and doing patrols are also not safe.

He said this was because some police stations do not have generators that kick in after load shedding starts.

Thobakgale said there are a number of police stations where police officers have been attacked during load shedding and their firearms have been taken by criminals who also assault them.

“Instead of management resolving those types of issues, they treat our members as suspects in these crimes. We also have a problem in registering cases within our police stations.

It’s become difficult because, during that time of load shedding, no cases would be registered within the Cas System itself. It is very important that cases are registered in time to curb the delay. If a detective has to charge a suspect to prepare them for the court to ensure that they are also charged in the system, they are unable to do so thus causing the delay in them appearing in court,” said Thobakgale.

Thobakgale said police officers find themselves having to go to a crime scene or search for criminals in dark areas and the majority of them don’t have torches. He said when they use torches in places like informal settlements, they can easily be seen by criminals and end up being victims with criminals shooting at them.

“Criminals use every small opportunity they can find and indeed, load shedding is one of the issues that criminals capitalise on.

We are going to see this with the crime stats where it will show that crime has increased because policing becomes difficult when it’s dark,” said Thobakgale.

Chairperson of Pietermaritzburg Business Fighting Crime (PBFC), Kantha Naidoo, said businesses are frustrated at losing trade, and are also not feeling safe.

Naidoo said businesses are now subjected to spending more on using generators to keep the lights going.

Pietermaritzburg police spokesperson Sergeant Sifiso Gwala said cases which include house robberies, business robberies, shoplifting and murder have gone up due to load shedding.

He said criminals are taking advantage of load shedding to commit crimes.

“They know that the different areas become dark and no street lights will be working, so no one will see them,” he said.

Gwala urged residents to be careful during load shedding and always be on the lookout.

“People must find load shedding schedules for their areas so that they can prepare themselves before the load shedding starts. They also need to make sure that they strengthen their security measures and must not open for any strangers during the load shedding because that is when criminals strike.

 “These criminals come and pretend that they asking for help but that is when they want to rob you or attack you.”

Gwala said cars are also being targeted by criminals.

-Additional reporting by Lethiwe Makhanya