Government is putting in place several measures to combat the rampant crime in the country’s biggest and busiest port of entry – OR Tambo International Airport (ORTIA).
The revised strategies will see the people working at the airport vetted and rotated to curb corruption, tactical response which will be intensified, increased police and security personal, as well as searching of people entering and leaving the airport.
“Everybody working here will be vetted and rotated. Those who are not needed will be asked to step aside. There will be extra deployment of personnel. The honeymoon is over for those stationed here for more than 10 years,” Police Minister Fikile Mbalula said on Monday.
Minister Mbalula visited the airport where he held a meeting with the SAPS management, State Security and the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Police Departments to discuss safety and security challenges at the airport.
“What you see here will be intensified going forward. Our tactical response will be upped. We are unleashing all our important units to keep watch at the airport,” the Minister said, adding that their plans will be evaluated on a daily basis.
“Things won’t be business as usual. This new security strategy won’t be seasonal- but it is here to stay. The dangerous criminals must know we have an appointment with them. It is going to be a very horrible experience for them. If they come with their guns, they must pray to satan because they will meet our forces on the ground. This is not just war-talk, this is real.”
Crime activities in the country’s busiest airport which is also a national key point has been making news headlines this year.
The airport has had several security breaches recently although it has a highly visible police presence since its a national key point.
Incidents at OR Tambo International Airport
The most prominent incident this year was a brazen cash heist in March where millions of rand were stolen‚ allegedly with the help of some police officers.
In May, a motorist was shot dead by a brazen group of criminals while driving towards the airport. Preliminary reports indicated that the driver of the Hyundai H1 was transporting a group of six business people from Johannesburg to the airport, and en route, at least one vehicle attempted to flag them down before shooting the driver.
In February, 271kg of cocaine with a street value of R78 million was confiscated at the airport. The drugs were en route from Sao Paulo, Brazil to Nairobi, Kenya, and found in a cargo warehouse during routine operations. This was labelled the biggest ever cocaine bust by customs officials in South Africa.
Also in May, cocaine worth an estimated R3.6 million was confiscated at the airport in two separate incidents on 7 and 8 May 2017.
Last month, officials at the airport intercepted 10 rhino horns, weighing 24.96kg and worth an estimated R4.99 million.
In addition to these, reports of criminals tailing of those leaving the airport to their homes to rob them has been a cause for concern.
Minister Mbalula said some of these crimes could have easily being foiled and prevented had it not been for the security forces at the airport who were corrupt.
Minister sends out stern warning
“Criminals work with greedy people in this airport – from service providers, security personal and police officers – who collude with criminals by taking bribes and giving them tips offs… police have failed us at the airport.”
But this he said would change. “We are going to clean out this place. Everybody should be assured of safety at the airport.”
State Security Minister David Mahlobo, who joined the Minister, assured that the security architecture of the country is going to change with regards to ports of entries.
“We have to know who is here. The state must be able to know who’s doing business at the airport be it the porters or the taxi-drivers. We are not trying to be difficult but someone must guard the guardians,” said Minister Mahlobo who expressed dissatisfaction in the successful prosecution of those arrested for crime at the airport.
“We are not satisfied at the rate of successful prosecutions of the crimes committed here. It doesn’t send confidence. We need to look at how do we used the model of specialized courts like those we had during the 2010 FIFA world cup.”
Ekurhuleni Mayor Mzwandile Masina welcomed the efforts from the national structures and vowed to also increase metro police in the vicinity of the airport.