Truckers live in dread of hijackers

2010-09-19 15:44

Truck drivers on South Africa’s roads are under siege by armed robbers who have hijacked more than 1 400 of their vehicles over the past year.

Yearly crime ­statistics released by the SA Police Service recently indicate that 1?412 trucks were ­hijacked in the period ­between April last year and March this year.

The number is fewer than the 1?437 cases reported in the previous ­financial year, but the statistics show that the incidence of truck ­hijacking over the past six years has risen ­sharply.

Gauteng has been identified as the truck hijacking capital, with 860 of the cases reported there.

Police have identified the R59 between Vereeniging and Johannesburg, the R103 between ­Cornelia and Heidelberg and the areas between Nigel, Carletonville, ­Delmas, Villiers and the Vaal as major truck hijacking hotspots.

Mpumalanga recorded the ­second highest number of ­hijackings, 197, while 127 were ­reported in KwaZulu-Natal.

Although the total figure is 25 cases fewer than in the previous year, truck drivers say that they are living in constant fear of the armed hijackers.

A driver who spoke on condition of anonymity said they were often powerless against the well-organised hijackers.

The 37-year-old driver, who works for a Tshwane-based trucking company, said there was “a place in the mountains around Port Shepstone where these gangs overtake your truck while you are going up a hill and then deliberately drive slowly in front of you.

“Then, when you slow down, people from another car jump onto the back of the truck and offload the cargo. We live with that fear all of the time.”

The truck drivers, usually ­unarmed and alone on deserted roads, are no match for hijackers whose tactics include:
»?Forcing trucks off the road by driving in front of them while pointing guns at the drivers; and

»?Using police-like blue lights or even marked police vehicles to force drivers to pull over.

Drivers are often forced into the gangs’ vehicles or into the back of their trucks, and are driven off to ­deserted areas where they are robbed of their personal ­belongings before the hijackers make off with their trucks.

Drivers are especially vulnerable when they stop at rest points along the road to sleep after having spent long hours behind the wheel.

A spokesperson for the ministry of police, Zweli Mnisi, said the ­police were working with law enforcement agencies in the SADC region to combat the cross-border ­trafficking of trucks.

Mnisi said the Anti-Truck ­Hijacking Unit had been deployed to combat the crime and crack the syndicates behind hijackings.

“We suspect that the hijackings are the work of organised crime syndicates.

“These guys plan with precision and seem to have lots of information, because you don’t just wake up and decide to hijack a truck.

“There is no evidence to suggest that they target any particular kind of truck or cargo.

“We believe that their main target is the trucks,” Mnisi said.

SA POLICE SERVICE STATS

Truck hijackings – 2009/10
»?Eastern Cape: 57
»?Free State: 67
»?Gauteng: 860
»?KwaZulu-Natal: 127
»?Limpopo: 19
»?Mpumalanga: 197
»?North West: 70
»?Northern Cape: 1
»?Western Cape: 14


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