Making looted goods, worthless: A group of South Africans are trying to stop looters from selling stolen items online.
After various looting instances, public violence and riots broke out in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, looters took to social media to sell the stolen items in order to make a quick buck.
But, it seems social media users in South Africa are not easily fooled. One such example includes a group of about 3 700 South Africans who have become online detectives, making it their mission to stop the sale of looted goods on electronic platforms.
TimesLive reports that Ryan Venter of Durban started the “Don’t buy looted goods” group by asking sellers of “bargain” electronic goods whether they had receipts for the goods posted online.
“I started the group when things started to get very bad on that first Monday night. I was too worried to go to sleep in case things in the surrounding area got worse. While watching the news, well into the morning hours and having a feeling of helplessness, I thought: ‘What are all these people going to do with all these looted goods?’
“I then thought there is so much stuff, they will never need everything. That’s when I realised they would try to sell the goods as quickly as possible, to not get caught with the stolen items later.”
The group later searched Facebook marketplace in particular for possible looted goods that are ‘suspect’.
“By suspect, I mean a real bargain. We would ask them for a receipt. If they didn’t have one, we then put them on the group for everyone to see. There were so many ads that, after they got some attention, either delisted or listed the ad under ‘sold’. But my team and I had already taken pictures of these ads and this week have sent them to a task force at Hillcrest police station. There have been a handful of ads that were legit but also got negative attention. I personally apologised to the sellers and then removed them from the group posts,” he said.
Suspicious adverts included two brand-new 70-inch LG flat-screen TVs being sold for R6 000. Each TV usually retails for R30 000.
On the group, there are also various posts about make-up going for only R20 as well as a Samsung Dishwasher being sold for R2 000 marked down from R4 000.
The group also receives tip-offs. “It started out as just the looting ads. Then we started to get quite a few tip-offs. In one instance we helped a big supermarket recover two trucks and a forklift. In another, we got police out to a well-known block of flats in Pinetown to recover looted goods,” Venter said.
One ‘tip-off’ that worked out quite well, was that of the now-famous blue couch that was looted in Springfield, Durban.
Leather Gallery owner Greg Parry said he was inundated with reports on the possible whereabouts of the sofa worth R70 000.
“In addition to receiving numerous tip-offs, we have also seen various advertisements on social media of looters trying to sell our products,” he said.
Social media users did mention the exact whereabouts of the sofa, but it is not clear whether it has been recovered by the police.