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183 schools burgled across SA during lockdown - Motshekga

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said she was 'horrified' after it emerged that 183 schools had been burgled since the lockdown came into effect on 27 March.

FILE: Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga. Picture: Kayleen Morgan/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - South African authorities on Monday reported that close to 200 schools have being broken into in the first 17 days of a five-week anti-coronavirus lockdown.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said she was "horrified" after it emerged that 183 schools had been burgled since the lockdown came into effect on 27 March.

"It is extremely disappointing for criminals, ... to randomly destroy the same infrastructure meant to provide decent spaces of learning and teaching," said the minister in a statement.

With 73 break-ins, eastern Mpumalanga province recorded the most incidents followed by Gauteng -- seat of the capital Pretoria and the economic hub Johannesburg -- with 55 robberies.

The attacks have ranged from arson, to theft of computers, printers and even classroom chairs, according to local media reports.

The rash of school attacks come just days after police minister Bheki Cele reported a dramatic fall in crime since South Africa imposed the coronavirus lockdown, crediting a ban on the sale of alcohol for the drop.

In his weekly emailed note, President Cyril Ramaphosa said Monday that "it is a great indictment of our society that dozens of schools have been burgled, trashed or burnt to the ground".

Earlier on Monday, Gauteng police said they had arrested 41 suspects in connection with the torching and burglaries at school in the province.

A number of schools have come under attack recently, including the setting alight of structures in Soshanguve in Pretoria and the breaking in at schools in areas including Soweto, Evaton and Ivory Park.

The arrests are linked to various incidents that happened since the closing of schools.

The police's Mavela Masondo said: “Most of these suspects have already appeared in court after being charged with arson and business burglary among other crimes. Seventeen in Johannesburg – including Soweto, nine in Tshwane, seven Sedibeng, four in Ekurheleni and another four in the West Rand.”

Additional reporting by Kgomotso Modise.