Participated in the unrest? Here's what criminal charges you could face

Correctional services minister Ronald Lamola says cases will be dealt with in collaboration with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and SA Police Service (SAPS). File photo.
Correctional services minister Ronald Lamola says cases will be dealt with in collaboration with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and SA Police Service (SAPS). File photo.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu/Sunday Times

Justice minister Ronald Lamola has tabled the department's plans on the arrests of thousands of people during unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng last week. 

Lamola was speaking before the parliamentary portfolio committee on justice and correctional services on Wednesday.

He said the cases will be dealt with in collaboration with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and SA Police Service (SAPS). 

He said no-one who took part in acts of criminality will evade justice and some could face terrorism or related charges.

Here is what you need to know:

Four categories of charges

Lamola said the cases will be divided into four categories in ascending order of seriousness. 

He said the operational plan will address collaboration between the NPA and SAPS , where many of the cases will likely amount to theft rather than mere possession of stolen property.

In collaboration with SAPS, emerging cases will be divided into four categories:

  • Actual looters and people participating in stealing from shops and outlets
  • People found in possession of stolen property
  • Groups and individuals stealing property in big quantities, organised or planned action
  • Enticement or inciting public violence

Lamola said experienced prosecutors have been assigned from the Organised Crime and Priority Crime Litigation Unit. 

“Crime heads in the provinces under the direction of the Directors of Public Prosecutions are assigned to deal with more complicated and serious matters,” he said. 

What punishments are likely?

Lamola said in terms of NPA policy, where it is justifiable, cases that relate to people in possession of stolen goods or people who participated in looting may result in restorative justice. 

Alternative measures such as the admission of guilt, diversion, and plea agreements will also be considered as a means of finalising the cases.

“From a correctional services perspective, we are required to reconfigure the remand detention system that is already overburdened,” said Lamola.

“Our facilities are stretched due to overcrowding and our challenges are also worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic,” he added.

R20bn damage in KwaZulu-Natal

On Tuesday, acting minister in the presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said the cost of damage in KwaZulu-Natal alone was R20bn. Gauteng’s losses are yet to be determined. 

She said data and estimates provided by the SA Property Owners’ Association (Sapoa) showed that in KwaZulu-Natal, 161 malls, 11 warehouses and eight factories were affected, with 161 liquor outlets and distributors being extensively damaged. 

“The SA Special Risk Insurance Association (Sasria), in which government is a sole shareholder, will conduct an assessment of the full extent of the damage. 

“The economic cluster ministers are consolidating proposals for a government package of interventions, including for small businesses that are mostly uninsured,” said Ntshavheni.

3,407 arrests made on various charges 

As of Sunday, a total of 3,407 people had been arrested on various charges relating to the violence and looting. 

According to police spokesperson Col Brenda Muridili, only one suspect was granted bail, 1,122 are expected to appear in different courts in the two provinces, and the remaining dockets are under investigation.

In Gauteng, during integrated operations at a number of hostels in Thembisa, Johannesburg, Alexandra and Moroka, 14 suspects were arrested for being in possession of suspected looted property. 

Among the goods recovered were mattresses, television sets, couches, fridges, sound systems, computer screens and laptops, steel frames, and grocery and clothing items.

Meanwhile in KwaZulu-Natal, 92 suspects were arrested over the weekend for being in possession of stolen property.

Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments? Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.