Cash-in-transit vans along Beyers Naude Square. Picture: MASI LOSI
Cash-in-transit vans along Beyers Naude Square. Picture: MASI LOSI

The South African Police Service (SAPS) is to deploy an additional 104 unmarked high-performance vehicles on the country’s freeways as part of its latest strategy to combat the rise in cash-in-transit heists.

This was disclosed in Parliament on Wednesday by Police Minister Bheki Cele during a multi-stakeholder meeting convened by the National Assembly’s police portfolio committee‚ which was called in response to the recent spike in heists, which have so far seen at least R114m stolen from cash transport security firms.

At least 152 incidents have been reported so far this year, with cash-transporting firms projecting losses of at least R470m, should the current trend continue, by year-end.

The revelation came in response to a range of questions on what the police were doing to tackle this crime. Cele said, among other things‚ they had recently been forced to urgently procure the new vehicles, which would be linked so they could respond simultaneously.

"We’re also going to put high-performing individuals inside those vehicles so that as they [criminals] come on the scene‚ we win that scene."

Union federation Cosatu has proposed that the Criminal Procedure Act should be amended to deny bail to people attacking members of the SAPS and security guards.

Matthew Parks‚ the parliamentary co-ordinator of Cosatu‚ said magistrates had too much discretion in this matter and often granted bail to repeat offenders. Parks said Cosatu also wanted private ownership of guns completely banned‚ saying only those employed in the security environment should be allowed to own firearms.

"We think it’s not strict enough that those who attack police officers and security officers are given bail," he said, adding that those found guilty of an attack should receive a minimum sentence of 10 years. "If you’re found guilty of the murder [of a police officer]‚ the minimum sentence should be that of life."

Parks also called for working conditions of security guards transporting cash to be improved‚ saying currently only two guards manned one car; this should be increased to four and they should be armed with automatic rifles instead of pistols.

His sentiments were echoed by the Federation of Unions of SA’s (Fedusa) Motor Transport Workers Union secretary, Mdumiseni Mabaso, who said security guards working for the companies involved often operated under difficult circumstances.

"We need to ensure trauma counseling after heist attacks. I can tell you some of these employees after getting robbed‚ they are expected to get back on the road the next morning‚ without any counseling and that particular person is so stressed‚ has no concentration. That’s why some of them, on seeing people‚ think this person is just a robber and they start shooting. I can’t‚ today, if I have been involved in a robbery‚ be expected to be back at work tomorrow morning."