OR Tambo International crime is simply 'embarrassing'

Cape Town - Johannesburg International is the busiest airport on the continent and more often the connector hub of choice for travel to other parts of South Africa - but crime has become rampant - with official statements warning travellers to be vigilent. 

OR Tambo International issued a statement over the past weekend after yet another cargo heist attempt took place at the airport.

SEE: UPDATE: Swift action taken as robbers attempt cargo hit at OR Tambo International

This followed a Carte Blanche investigation into alleged spotters working within the airport to identify travellers with high-value bags or good.

Aired on Sunday 25 June, the actuality programme interviewed an alleged spotter as he detailed how people working at the airport are helping criminals identify tourists, businessmen and even locals as they pass through OR Tambo International.

Watch the Carte Blanche Airport Spotters segment here

On Friday 7 July, EFF leader Julius Malema weigh in on the concern calling the airport a "playground for criminals". 

What are the authorities doing about the crime situation:

Acsa has since met with the various stakeholders involved in the safety and security of the airport operations and has confirmed it is working through its Public Safety and Security staff to identify these alleged “airport spotters” believed to be alerting criminals behind follow-home robberies.

Acsa says it is supporting the South African Police Services Crime Prevention Plan in identifying the alleged spotters.

'Decisive action to be taken'

Leigh Gunkel-Keuler, spokesperson for OR Tambo International Airport says, “We will not hesitate to take decisive action when we identify any person helping the criminals, irrespective of whether these spotters are employed by Airports Company South Africa or one of the many service providers operating at the airport.”

An estimated 35 000 people are employed air-port wide, across airline companies, ground handling companies, cargo operators, security companies, retail concessionaires, hotels, public transport operators and government agencies.  Further, only about 10% to 15% of people working at the airport are directly employed by Acsa.

“In addition, we continue to work closely with the SAPS on a variety of measures, including surveillance and intelligence work, to identify the spotters and the criminals.”

SEE: OR Tambo heightens security as multi-million rand robbery details emerge

Acsa is also working with the travel and tourism sector so that it remains engaged on the issue of crime - having met with the Tourism Business Council concerning the spike in this crime trend.

“As airport management, we met with key stakeholders in the travel and tourism sector. We too spoke of our mounting concern around issues of crime in a candid and transparent manner. SAPS officials were also present to provide an update on their crime prevention approach. Our commitment to being a part of the solution continues," says Gunkel-Keuler.

SEE: OR Tambo heightens security as multi-million rand robbery details emerge

An airport is a complex facility within which many stakeholders operate and Gunkel-Keuler says that in this context, efforts in regard to safety and security need to be carefully synchronised.

“We will continue to work with all law enforcement agencies and the wider airport community to implement activities that will help identify the spotters alleged to be employed at the airport by various companies,” she says.

'Safe and secure portal to report crime' 

Traveller24 previously spoke to Tourism Business Council's GM for Policy Analysis and Strategic Projects Tebogo Umanah, following a heist involving cargo to the estimated value of R24m, also believed to have been part of an alleged internal syndicate. 

Umanah's portfolio includes project management for the Tourism Business Index and the Tourism Safety Initiative, concerning illegal activities within the Tourism Sector and what business can do to report as well as tighten measures around the issue.

According to Umanah, not many are aware of the TBCSA's Tourism Safety Initiative (TSI) which offers its members a "safe and secure portal" to report as well as to active investigations around any criminal networks and activities they suspect their employees or guests might be involved in.  

Umanah says the council works together with the police and individuals who are able to remain anonymous but still ensure the issue of criminal activity is swiftly addressed. 


The ACSA Hotline:  0800 00 8080

The ACSA Hotline Email: acsa@thehotline.co.za

ACSA Customer Care Services: Customercare@airports.co.za

TBCSA TSI portal: Click here to report a crime

Safety measures

SEE: Hijacking hotspots: Worst areas in Gauteng, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal

Follow these tips according to Wheels24 to avoid a hijacking:  

  • Have your key ready but not visible. Unlock your car when you're close by.
  • Don’t talk on your cellphone as you walk.  
  • Check the back seat before getting into your car.
  • A well-maintained car is less likely to break down and leave you vulnerable.
  • Plan your route and let someone know what your route is and when to expect you at your destination.
  • Always check the rear view mirror to see if you are being followed.
  • Avoid driving with your windows open and keep the doors locked. Put all valuables out of sight. 
  • Avoid distractions while driving such as using a cellphone.
  • If you suspect you are being followed, drive to your nearest police station or a busy public area.
  • When approaching a red traffic light, slow down so that you only reach it when it turns green.
  • Make sure your driveway is well lit and clear of shrubbery. 
  • If possible, park in a central, well-lit place, preferably with guards on duty. 
  • When stopping behind another vehicle, leave half a vehicle length in front so you can make an emergency escape if necessary.
  • Change your routes and your schedule if possible on a regular basis. 
  • Make arriving at your destination safer by calling ahead and asking someone to open and close your gate for you.

What to do if confronted according to Arrive Alive:


  • Do not resist, especially if the hijacker has a weapon. Surrender your vehicle and move away. Try to put as much distance between yourself and the hijacker(s) as speedily as possible.
  • Do not reach for your purse or valuables. Leave everything in the vehicle.
  • Try to remain calm at all times and do not show signs of aggression.
  • Be compliant to all demands set by the perpetrator.
  • Do not make eye contact with the hijacker. He may perceive this behavior as a threat and retaliate aggressively.
  • Keep your hands still and visible to the hijacker, so as to give him assurance of your passive content.
  • Do not speak too fast (if you are able to talk) and do not make sudden movements.
  • Gather as much information as possible without posing a threat
  • - How many people?
  • - How many firearms and description thereof?
  • - What were the perpetrators wearing (clothing)?
  • - To which direction did they drive off?
  • - Take note of the language they use (the accent).
  • First phone the SA Police Service on 08600 10111. They will dispatch the medical services if needed.
  • Other emergency numbers you could phone are 112 ANY Network (Vodacom+MTN+Cell C) or 147 Vodacom ONLY.
  • Activate the vehicle-tracking device, if the vehicle is fitted with one.

  • What to read next on Traveller24:

    -  SACAA: SA ready to deal with aviation threats

    OR Tambo Airport uncovers internal 'illegal commissions' scam

    Uber adds safety insurance and claims partner protection to all rides in SA

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