Pretoria - Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa has called on law-abiding citizens to stop buying stolen goods.
Speaking at the national launch of the Second-Hand Goods Act in Limpopo on Monday, the minister warned that with the Act, which came into effect earlier this month, the buyer of stolen goods was as guilty at the criminal who stole the goods.
"In essence, the Act stipulates that any person who buys a stolen good is as guilty as the person who stole the goods; and harsher sentences will apply to both the buyer and the thief. Our message to...all communities across the country is to refrain from buying stolen goods," he said.
The Act also empowers police to arrest the buyer and the thief, so there was no excuse when it came to criminality, he added.
"We do not want this Act to become mere legislation on a piece of paper, but it must become a pain to criminals," Mthethwa said.
While the Act would be a nuisance to those who bought stolen goods, it would also provide relief to victims of crime because they now know that the perpetrators of crime would now face many years in jail.
"The Act further requires all dealers in second-hand goods to report to the police all suspicious transactions where the seller attempts to provide false particulars or where the goods are suspected to be stolen or tampered with," the minister explained.
Second-hand goods dealers and pawnbrokers will not only have to take reasonable steps to ensure that they do not buy stolen goods or goods that have been tampered with, but will also have to be careful about who they buy goods from.
"If an unscrupulous dealer is found guilty, a court may impose a prison sentence of up to 10 years," Mthethwa warned.
Designated second-hand goods police officers were currently being trained. The minister said that through this training, police would not only be able to arrest those who broke the law but would also be able to secure harsher convictions in court.
Mthethwa called on all South Africans to join forces with police to help fight crime. With regards to stolen goods, South Africans could play their part by not buying stolen goods, the minister reiterated.