The South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric), on behalf of the banking industry, warns bank clients to always remain alert when carrying cash. Incidents from 2016 to 2017 increased by 4%. However, from January to June 2018, there was a 33% decrease when compared to the same period in 2017, with 478 and 709 incidents respectively. Bank client cash losses for 2018 from January to June amounted to just over R21 million, which was a decrease of 5% from the same period in 2017.

Kalyani Pillay, the chief executive of Sabric, says: “Our strong partnerships with the South African Police Service and the banking industry has contributed to this decrease in incidents, and we will continue to leverage on these partnerships to support investigations, and ensure that perpetrators are brought to book. We are grateful to the SAPS and the banks for their continued support in the fight against these criminals.”

Two crime types remain prevalent; victims are followed out of a bank branch after a cash withdrawal has been made, which comprises the majority of cases, and then incidences where they are followed after withdrawing money at an ATM. In both these cases, criminals follow the victim to their residence, place of work or any other place where it is easy to rob them. In the case of bank branches, “spotters” still operate and communicate the victims’ description to accomplices who wait outside the bank. Small business owners are also at risk, particularly when drawing cash to pay weekly wages.

In most robberies, robbers are armed and will resort to violence if the victim tries to resist, Sabric says.

From 2017 to June 2018, Sabric recorded 8 fatalities and 26 injuries due to cash robberies.

These robberies are not limited to urban areas, but also occur in rural towns across South Africa. Gauteng showed the highest number of incidents (843) for 2017 at 58%, and was followed by KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape, Mpumalanga, North West, Eastern Cape, Limpopo, Free State and Northern Cape.

According to incidents reported to Sabric, between 2015 and January 2018, 52 stokvel robbery incidents were also reported.

Pillay says: “It is distressing that bank clients who are the victims of stokvel and associated robberies are often injured or even killed during these incidents, which is why we urge them to find safer ways to transact, such as internet transfers or mobile banking, instead of carrying large amounts of cash”.