Police Minister Bheki Cele has said while organised crime syndicates have taken advantage of the lockdown regulations by illegally selling alcohol and cigarettes, the illicit trade existed long before measures were taken to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Cele, who was briefing the media of Friday, said almost 230 000 people have been charged for contravening lockdown regulations since they were enforced on 26 March.
These contraventions included liquor and tobacco-related offences as well as illegal gatherings and the failure to confine to places of residence.
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Speaking about the illicit liquor and tobacco trade, Cele said criminals were opportunistic and as a result have expanded their illegal trade to include counterfeit alcohol and cigarettes.
This had also been evidenced in the increase of liquor and tobacco smuggling between South Africa, Botswana, eSwatini, Lesotho, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, he added.
“Our lockdown partners, the South African National Defence Force, have disrupted some of these illegal operations mainly along South Africa’s borders with Mozambique and Zimbabwe; and confiscated contraband including alcohol and cigarettes worth about R1.07 million in March and R1.6 million in April.”
Cele said he could not quantify how big the illicit market had become since the sale of tobacco and alcohol was banned.
“Nobody has really given us the measurements of how huge the thing [the increase of the black-market sale of liquor and alcohol] is, yes we confirm that they are illicit. That’s why there has been a big number of people