Lethiwe Makhanya
3 minute read
22 Jun 2022

New police unit to fight suspected syndicate behind recent robberies in PMB

Lethiwe Makhanya

In a bid to curb escalating business robberies in the Pietermaritzburg CBD, police are putting together a team that will deal specifically with these cases.

In a bid to curb escalating business robberies in the Pietermaritzburg CBD, police are putting together a team that will deal specifically with these cases.

This was confirmed by Pietermaritzburg police spokesperson, Sergeant Sifiso Gwala.

Gwala was responding to allegations that a deployment of the flying squad to monitor the N3 might have had an impact on the spike in business robberies in the CBD.

The Witness has reported extensively on how Pietermaritzburg business owners and their employees have been hit, in some cases more than once, by a suspected syndicate that has robbed more than 20 shops in recent months.

A source within the SAPS flying squad unit, who asked not to be named, told The Witness that they started to notice the increase in business robberies after they were deployed on the N3 shortly after last year’s July unrest.

He said they were tired of sitting on the highway doing nothing while the criminals terrorised people and businesses in the CBD.

“The way these criminals have been going about their activities, it’s like they know what is happening within the police force.

“They probably also know that there are few cars at the police stations.”

He said the spike in the crime rate in the city centre frustrated members of the flying squad because they wanted to do something about it.

“We have tried to speak to our superiors about being deployed back to Pietermaritzburg, but we were told that they are getting a mandate from the province that we must stay on the N3,” he said.

He said they were not even allowed to attend any complaints that were not on the highway, unless they had been given permission.

“What is worse is that there is nothing that we are doing there, except for sitting in the car, come out and stretch then go back.

“It’s the same routine every day.

“What’s an even worse thought is that if anything happens on the N3 there’s nothing we can do because we don’t have the equipment to deal with the people who might protest or block the N3.”

Gwala confirmed that the flying squad was deployed on the N3 because it was currently classified as a hotspot.

“The flying squad is a specialised unit. Their deployment on the N3 does not mean that the CBD has been left unattended.

“There are police who are always ready to attend these robbery cases that seem to be escalating.

“The rise of these crimes has nothing to do with the deployment of the flying squad on the N3,” he said.

Gwala said the unit would be available whenever they might be needed for assistance.

“Their being on the N3 does not mean that they are not available to assist when need arises.

“They are there because there is a need for that deployment.

“We are also putting together a team that will specifically deal with the trio crimes in the CBD and there are also other plans to deal with this crisis that we cannot reveal.”

Gwala also revealed that there were also other police officers who had been deployed in Pietermaritzburg by the national SAPS office last week to assist with the ongoing crime.

Councillor Daniel Kemp, whose ward includes the city centre, said the increase in the CBD robberies highlighted the importance of community partnerships like that of the policing forums and Business Fighting Crime (BFC) in combatting the scourge.

“We look to private partnerships with business and government through community forums like CPF.

“Synergy must be maintained and better communication channels with all security services must be strengthened.

“Improvements on these will reduce, response times in attending to active crimes. Areas of high crime (hotspots) need to be prioritised.”

Kemp said poorly lit streets as well as lack of visibility by police, traffic and municipal security were all attributes of a city in distress.