Correctional services minister Ronald Lamola has warned of mounting pressure on holding facilities as the number of arrests continues to grow amid the rioting and looting in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
By Wednesday, 1,234 people had been arrested in connection with mass looting in both provinces.
Lamola, who was briefing media in Alexandra, Johannesburg, said the number of arrests was starting to put pressure on correctional facilities, including police holding cells.
“At this stage, we still have capacity, but obviously it is going to increase the pressure on our correctional facilities including in the police cells,” said Lamola.
“We are working with the police to ensure we are able to manage the situation.”
Lamola also expressed concerns about the spread of Covid-19 in the cells, saying correctional officials were keeping a close watch in prisons and making sure Covid-19 protocols are being adhered to during the arrests.
“We are complying with the Covid-19 protocols so that those who are coming in, the remand attendees, they do not lead to a massive upsurge of Covid-19 in our facilities because up to this point we have been able to hold it and it is calm,” said Lamola
According to National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (Natjoints) spokesperson Brenda Muridili, of 1,234 arrests, 549 were apprehended in KwaZulu-Natal and 683 in Gauteng.
Muridili said 72 people have died in the unrest in the two provinces and 14 murder cases were being investigated in KwaZulu-Natal and 19 in Gauteng.
There were 13 inquest dockets opened in KwaZulu-Natal and 26 in Gauteng linked to fatalities.
“The greater part of the inquest dockets relate to stampedes that occurred during incidents of looting of shops and malls, while other deaths and injuries were related to ATM explosions and shootings,” said Muridili in a statement.
By Unathi Nkanjeni – TimesLIVE