JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Crews on South Africa’s armoured vans staged a national protest on Tuesday to demand the right to bear arms and kill assailants following a spate of deadly robberies in a country with a reputation for violent crime.
The vans blocked streets in downtown Johannesburg and other cities while workers affiliated with the Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) and the Motor Transport Workers Union (MTWU) marched in solidarity.
The crews of drivers and guards carried placards with messages such as “give us permission to kill thugs” and “without us South Africa is cashless”.
“We need the government to pass a law that will allow cash-in-transit companies to buy fire arms and get licences for the big machines (guns) we want,” MTWU spokesman Hlasinyane Motaung told Talk Radio 702. Guards are at present authorized only to carry pistols, he said.
“These criminals have started a war and why should we be victims,” Motaung said, adding that on one recent day there were five robberies in one day.
Thieves armed with assault rifles and explosives blew up two armoured vans in Johannesburg last month in a daytime incident that left security guards injured.
The provincial government of Gauteng, which includes Johannesburg, said last month that the province had been hit by 96 cash heists between August 2017 and May 2018 and 44 armoured vehicles were attacked.
Police Minister Bheki Cele vowed last week to deal with serious and violent crime nationwide.
Cash services and solutions provider SBV Services, which has a fleet of over 800 of armoured vehicles across Africa, said it was working closely with its local clients to minimise disruptions to businesses during the strike.
“Our industry is faced with a severe crisis as a result of the daily spate of cash-in-transit attacks that threaten the safety of our employees and members of the public,” SBV Services Group Chief Executive Mark Barrett said in a statement.
Reporting by Siphiwe Sibeko; Writing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg