Durban – Police Minister Bheki Cele said on Friday that Operation Thunder, the South African Police Service’s intensive intervention and stabilisation programme, would be making its way to KwaZulu-Natal.
Currently running in the Western Cape, Operation Thunder was launched on 15 May and, according to Cele, has reaped positive results.
The minister was speaking at police headquarters in Durban’s city centre on Friday, where he was introducing the new Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) head, Lieutenant General Godfrey Lebeya, to the media.
“The National Gangsterism Intervention Operation Thunder consists of members from specialised units to deal with the scourge in the Western Cape over a period of three months,” said Cele.
The operation was intended to deal decisively with crimes against women, children and vulnerable groups and to “sanitise the streets” of gangsterism.
When the operation was rolled out in KwaZulu-Natal, the notorious KwaMashu Hostel would be on the list of targets. “KwaMashu Hostel needs serious Hawks’ eyes,” said Cele.
He made the statement just hours after two alleged hijackers – believed to be from the hostel – were gunned down following a failed hijacking that led to a Durban man being shot dead in front of his children on Thursday night.
Both of the children were unharmed and a manhunt was underway for a third suspect, said Cele.
Earlier in the week, Cele met with all operational units and identified priority areas that would receive “maximum attention and focus” from all divisions in terms of operations and support functions.
Cele said that Lebeya’s “presence” in the policing portfolio must be felt, adding that the country needed answers to political killings, cash in transit heists, organised crime, trio crimes, taxi violence, kidnapping cases, high profile cases, corruption cases, commercial crimes and others.
“Of importance now is for [Lebeya] and the team of the Hawks to hit the ground running and produce tangible results,” said Cele.
He also noted his appreciation for the successes made thus far in dealing with Cash-in-Transit (CIT) heists.
According to Cele, between 11 August 2017 and 20 May 2018, the SAPS and Hawks had recorded 295 incidents of CITs; 244 cases had been investigated, 130 arrests had been made and 44 convictions secured.
Cele also said that cabinet had approved a firearm amnesty due to the high number of illegally possessed firearms circulating within the country, which were a major contributor to crime.
“In due course we will be making an announcement on how the process will unfold. We urge communities to voluntarily surrender their legal and illegal firearms. As the South African Police Services, we are making a call for action to the communities to make use of this opportunity since we are going to have no mercy when we deal with any unlawful possession of firearms,” he said.