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KZN social development department losing millions as hijacking and theft cases go unsolved

The social development department in KZN has been targeted by criminals stealing vehicles and looting office equipment. Stock photo.
The social development department in KZN has been targeted by criminals stealing vehicles and looting office equipment. Stock photo.
Image: 123rf/ Igor Stevanovic

The department of social development in KwaZulu-Natal has become a soft target for criminal syndicates who have looted state resources in a spate of hijackings and robberies.

The latest incident occurred on Sunday when armed robbers made off with 10 computers, two TVs and a state vehicle at the department's Utrecht service office in northern KZN. 

In a statement on Monday, MEC Nonhlanhla Khoza appealed to police to intensify their investigations into a series of cases in which millions of rand worth of equipment and vehicles had been stolen and hijacked over the past year. 

It is alleged that a group of armed men stormed the offices on Sunday, tying up security guards with ropes before taking keys to get into the office.

The robbers locked security guards in a room while helping themselves to state property.

“The robbery at our service office will result in a major setback to service [to] our clients. The stolen computers contains sensitive information about people we serve daily,” said Khoza.

“It is very disappointing that the criminals continue to target government offices. Any stolen government properties have a major impact on service delivery to the communities.”

Khoza said the department had experienced a number of incidents in different offices across the province where vehicles and computers were stolen last year.  

She expressed concern that no-one has yet been arrested for the crimes.

“There seems to be a syndicate operating across the province targeting offices of the department of social development. Police have informed us that they are investigating the matter, with the view to have the perpetrators arrested.”

Department spokesperson Mhlaba Memela told TimesLIVE that at least three offices - in Inanda, Umlazi and Pinetown - were targeted last year, and criminals made off with equipment and assets worth millions.

“It's been happening across the province, hijackings and vehicles and equipment stolen from our offices. We have not heard of any arrests.”

In October, the department closed offices in KwaDambuza, Pietermaritzburg, after a surge of hijackings of state vehicles. 

That same month the IFP expressed concern at the increased theft of vehicles belonging to the department. 

The party said 53 vehicles from the department were yet to be recovered after being hijacked between 2017 and 2020.