South Africans caught with cigarettes in their cars will be arrested by police as it continues to be a crime until the regulations have changed, police minister Bheki Cele warns.
He avoided questions about allegations that the current ban on liquor and cigarettes could be extended to Level 1 of the restriction, saying only that it is discussing pressure in the National Coronavirus Command Board and that he, as a member, is reviewing it.
According to Cele, some 57,000 cases have already been opened by police after nearly 57 days of restraint against almost the same number of people who violated the regulations.
These included, for example, alcohol and cigarette related offenses, illegal gatherings, people who were outside their home, as well as cross-border or inter-provincial movements, business violations and transport-related offenses in particular taxis.
Asked why people are arrested if they are caught with liquor in their cars, Cele said the regulations are clear that the transport of liquor is illegal.
“Whether the drink is in your basket or bag, you are not allowed to transport it from one place to another. You can only drink it in your own home.
“Likewise, you may only smoke cigarettes in your home. It is not illegal to smoke in your home if the cigarettes were there.
“The problem comes in when we find cigarettes in your car and you can’t explain where and when you bought it.
“If you have thousands of cigarettes in your home and smoke it there, we will not come into your house to arrest you. Or if you drink in your home.
“But buying and selling cigarettes is illegal. Until the regulations are changed, it will be a crime to do so. “
According to Cele, most offenses are in the Western Cape, the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, where infection rates are also highest in South Africa.
People were either fined or released on warning. Others are out on bail and the rest are being prosecuted for serious crimes.
According to him, organized crime syndicates exploit the ban and have also expanded their smuggling activities into trafficking in illegal and counterfeit cigarettes and beverages.