South Africa: Criminals Stash Drugs in Coffins During Coronavirus Lockdown

CROTONE, ITALY - MAY 27: Members of the Italian Red Cross prepare coffins for the 34 migrants that died at sea on May 24 after the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) "Phoenix" vessel disembarked more than 600 people on May 27, 2017 in Crotone, Italy. More than 600 refugees and …
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A province in South Africa has identified a “new trend” in which criminals use coffins and hearses to transport illegal drugs during the nation’s coronavirus lockdown, South Africa’s News24 reported.

On March 27, South Africa’s government initiated a nationwide lockdown in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus. During the shutdown, due to last until the end of April, travel is allowed only for essential services and social distancing is enforced. South Africa’s coronavirus lockdown has been considered one of the strictest on the African continent, and it includes a ban on alcohol sales.

Faced with the alcohol sale ban and travel restrictions, criminals have devised creative ways to traffic illegal provisions. News24 reports that in KwaZulu-Natal, a coastal province, criminals have been impersonating funeral home staff – who have fewer lockdown restrictions as they are considered essential workers – to hide and transport drugs.

On April 25, in the town of Underberg, police officers noticed a vehicle belonging to a funeral parlor. The officers stopped and searched the car, and discovered liquor inside the vehicle. The car’s occupants were then arrested.

Earlier the same day, in the town of Pongola, two alleged drug dealers were arrested after they were caught in possession of 176 pounds of marijuana stashed in a coffin they were transporting. The individuals were posing as funeral home employees when they were stopped by police officers manning a roadblock, searched, and arrested.

“We welcome the significant progress made by our law enforcement authorities in the apprehension of those who have sought to violate the regulations of the lockdown,” Sihle Zikalala, KwaZulu-Natal’s premier said at a press conference on Sunday, News24 reports. “We want to commend the law enforcement operations for upscaling efforts to ensure compliance with lockdown regulations,” he added.
Zikala also described the drug traffickers impersonating funeral home staff as a “new trend” in his province.

On April 20, several South African policemen were arrested for drinking at a bar, which violated the nation’s ban on alcohol sales during the coronavirus lockdown.

On April 23, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said the government will allow a partial reopening of the economy on May 1, easing travel restrictions and allowing some industries to resume operations. At press time on Tuesday, South Africa had 4,996 infections and 93 deaths from the Chinese coronavirus.

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