The recent upsurge of cash-in-transit heists that have gripped Gauteng and other provinces around the country has reached a critical point.
Undoubtedly, drastic measures need to be implemented as a matter of urgency to thwart these barbaric criminals in their tracks from committing more crimes of this nature.
In fact, in a dramatic turn of events, this week saw members of the Federation of Unions of South Africa and its affiliate, the Motor Transport Workers Union, marching to Johannesburg to hand over a memorandum of demands to my office as a form of expression of their fear and dissatisfaction in the manner in which the scourge of cash-in-transit heists has spiked since the beginning of the year.
This move should be seen in a positive light as it creates room for a collective approach to deal with the issue of cash-in-transit heists.
I have personally advocated for dialogue between government and the companies responsible for cash-in-transit in the province because I am convinced that there are certain areas that need our collective attention to deal effectively with this matter.
In a nutshell, drivers of vehicles that transport money around the country demand protection from criminal syndicates.
Understandably so, the drivers of these vehicles are human beings. They are fathers, brothers and some of them are bread winners in their families and yet their lives are always in danger.
It is very unfortunate that almost every day we wake up to the news of a cash-in-transit heist in various parts of the province let alone the country.
The brazen nature and the military precision that these heists are undertaken are shocking.
The blatant disregard of the law by these callous criminals can be seen on some of the videos clips doing rounds on social media.
One such incident is the one which took place in Boksburg where about 10 armed criminals bombed two SBV vehicles and made off with an undisclosed amount of cash.
What is comforting is that seven suspects linked to this robberies were swiftly arrested.
Thanks to our Gauteng integrated policing plan which puts emphasis on the need for a coordinated approach by all the law enforcement agencies to tackle the scourge of crime.
As the law enforcement agencies in the country we have all the reasons to be worried by these incidents as they show a complete disregard for lives, not only for security personnel who are trained to face this type of combat, but more importantly for the innocent and law-abiding citizens of this country.
An unacceptable number of cash-in-transit heists have been recorded since the beginning of this year. We are halfway through the year and this simply means that almost daily there has been one or more of these heist committed nationally.
It is obvious that at the core of these activities are harden criminals who have complete disregard for the rule of law and using all avenues to achieve their objectives.
This form of criminal activity is the product of increasingly desperate element of society unwilling to work to make a decent living.
It is sad to witness how currently there are still people who depend on the proceeds of criminal activities to survive.
However, our law enforcement agencies are geared to tackle this head on as there are some arrests that we continue to effect in this regard.
The establishment of national and provincial task teams to deal with cash-in-transit heists in the country shows our commitment and endeavour to stop this. We cannot afford to rest on our laurels and watch criminals do as they please.
In Gauteng, from August 2017 to May 2018, a total of 96 cash-in-transit cases have been reported, while 44 armoured vehicles were attacked with 52 of them taking place on cross pavement carriers (secure containers). Very few suspects were arrested. To date 26 suspects have been arrested while 85 of them are still at large.
However, there are notable successes that have recorded which include the recovery of eight AK47s, one R5 rifle, one R4 rifle, one BM 4 and 11 9mm pistols.
A total of 16 vehicles have also been recovered from some of the suspects including two police radios and two military bullet-proof vests.
About R95 million in cash was also recovered from the scene and the suspects.
The situation around has robberies has reached a boiling point and has even prompted the parliamentary committee on police to hold a debate with various stakeholders in around this issue on June 13 2018 and has also prompted Police Minister Bheki Cele to pronounce on a decisive action to address this pandemic.
The reality is that the perpetrators of these crimes live among us, in our communities and unfortunately for some in our homes. It is imperative that members of the community should work closely with the law enforcement agencies to assist in the arrest of these animals.
These criminals are sophisticated and armed to their teeth. Therefore, a collective approach to deal with these crimes is critical.
It is important that we commit all our resources and engage all the law enforcement agencies in the province to deal with this challenge.
We cannot allow these criminals to walk our streets and instil fear among ordinary citizens.
We shall continue to intensify the work of the crime intelligence team and work around the clock to ensure that all suspects linked to the commission of these heists are arrested and ensure maximum sentences are imposed on them by our courts.
There is also an urgent need to collaborate with private security in the fight against the syndicates who continue to supply explosives commonly used to explode these vehicles.
It is without a doubt that the present measures are inadequate and therefore need to be revisited.
The infiltration of criminal syndicates by law enforcement agencies will significantly reduce this form of criminal activity.
Let us all unite in curbing the surge of these cash-in-transit heists as they could cause an economic crisis.
• Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane is Gauteng MEC for community safety