OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. Picture: ACSA
OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. Picture: ACSA

The police’s efforts to make OR Tambo International Airport a crime-free zone have yielded results but more still needs to be done to intercept criminal syndicates operating in and around the national key point‚ DA shadow minister of police Zakhele Mbhele says.

Mbhele conducted an oversight visit at South Africa’s busiest airport on Monday‚ a year after then national police minister Fikile Mbalula intervened by implementing the Integrated Multi-Disciplinary Tactical Security Plan following a crime wave.

"The incidents of crime have been reduced but there are still challenges. There is understaffing of the police‚ and manpower needs to be beefed up to operate better despite improvement‚" he said.

However‚ Mbhele said there was inadequate crime intelligence to combat the serious, organised crime including passport fraud‚ drug trafficking‚ violent crimes‚ and theft of luggage.

"There is a need for crime intelligence to be beefed up‚ in particular because we were told that the officer in charge of crime intelligence at the airport is not permanently stationed at the airport. He has only been placed here temporarily.

"We need permanent appointments for stability and certainty so that expert knowledge and understanding can be built up in this specialised environment‚" he added.

Mbhele said better resourcing and equipping of crime intelligence could inform intelligence-led operations that identify‚ infiltrate and ultimately neutralise the syndicates that operate in and around the airport.

He said there were improvements in catching drug mules‚ but they were the lowest operatives in the drug trade and there were not enough kingpins being nabbed.

"The biggest security risk factor in the airport environment is collusion among corrupt elements in the different departments and agencies operating within the airport," said Mbhele.

"The syndicate networks exist with corrupt officials in that space to make organised crime possible. If they can crack and neutralise these networks‚ that would take care of the problem once and for all."