SA's poor fear coronavirus lockdown will make them easy prey for criminals
Johannesburg - As
South Africa starts a 21-day national lockdown to
stem the coronavirus outbreak, poorer residents fear being
exposed to worsening violence and scams as security companies
jack up patrols in wealthier neighbourhoods.
A spike in coronavirus scams like fake door-to-door tests to
break into people's homes could leave residents in townships
particularly vulnerable to crime and violence, rights activists
"All South Africans are vulnerable to crime, but those with
resources will be able to protect themselves in this uncertain
time more than those in townships," said Thami Nkosi of the
local Right2Know group, which fights for freedom of expression.
South Africa is considered one of the most unequal countries
in the world, according to the World Bank, and the impact of
years of apartheid spatial planning that set to physically
divide the country's different races lingers on today.
Inequality in cities could be further exacerbated by a rise
in coronavirus scams, supermarket robberies and domestic
violence during lockdowns, with the central bank warning that
criminals are visiting homes to collect "contaminated" money.
The first few hours after the lockdown in the Joburg CBD and surrounding areas saw a team of SAPS, Metro Police and military staff patrol the streets and sending people home. Picture: Timothy Bernard/African News Agency (ANA)
"We issued a warning (for door-to-door coronavirus scams)
over social media that went viral, with others around the
country sharing similar stories," said Ozanne Mac Adam, a
coordinator for private security company TRSS Reaction.
South Africa has reported the most coronavirus cases in
sub-Saharan Africa - now over 1 000 - and public health experts
are worried that the virus could overwhelm the health system if
infection rates rise steeply.
"Communities are alarmed and nervous about the virus, but
also about criminals taking advantage of the situation," Mac
Adam told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a phone interview.
"Our clients in residential estates and shopping centres
have asked for more patrols and security presence."
Barbed wire, electric fences and panic buttons are a part of
everyday life in a country with more than 20 000 murders a year
- the world's fifth highest murder rate in 2019, according to
the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala visited the community of Cato Crest ahead of the 21-day national lockdown to raise awareness about Covid-19. Picture: Motswari Mofokeng/African News Agency (ANA)
Some fear that the country's lockdown,, which started at midnight on Thursday, could put women and girls at greater danger of
"We have extremely high crime rates in Alex," said Ramatamo
Sehoai, a journalist living in the Alexandra township of about
750 000 people.
"A lockdown in a township, where maybe 10 people share one
shack, will increase violence against women and others," he said
in a phone interview.
Police Minister Bheki Cele told reporters on Wednesday that
the South African National Defence Force would be increasing
foot patrols, roadbloacks and vehicle checkpoints.
Noting the fear of escalating violence against women, he
said there are plans to "beef up" family violence and child
For Sehoai, the lockdown will limit movement and income for
informal workers in townships, but the heightened police and
military presence is "as close to private security as we can
"Perhaps the military will help us fight the virus and crime
too," he said. "I just hope that when we leave our shacks to get
food, we aren't seen as loiterers or criminals."