Shocking number of hijackings in South Africa – these are the worst areas to own a car

 ·19 Feb 2023

South Africa has experienced a massive jump in hijacking activity since pre-Covid – and the situation has only deteriorated even further over the last 12 months.

The latest crime figures presented by police minister Bheki Cele on Friday (17 February) paint a bleak picture for safety and security in South Africa.

Aside from levels of violent crime escalating, and murder in particular claiming 74 lives a day over 2022, the country has seen crime levels increase across the board.

Cele said that the numbers “don’t paint an overall positive picture of the crime situation in our country”, but insisted that work was being done to change the situation.

“Police are pushing back on criminality, through visible policing and disruptive operations. Plainly put, the more boots on the ground was not just a slogan, their impact has been felt and starting to make a difference in our communities,” he said.

One area where the police appear to be losing the battle, however, is with hijackings, which are up a staggering 30% from levels in 2019, before the Covid pandemic hit.

The quarterly data represents reported crimes between October and December 2022, which, when added to 4Q21/22 data through to 3Q22/23, gives a full picture of crime for the 2022 calendar year.

In the 2019 calendar year, South Africans reported 17,777 carjackings, averaging around 49 vehicles hijacked every day. By the end of 2022, this number had escalated to 23,025 carjackings – a 30% increase, averaging 63 vehicles stolen a day.

Measuring this as a rate per 100,000 people in the country, carjackings have climbed from 30.2 per 100,000 in 2019 to 37.7.

While the SAPS’ quarterly data shows a marginal increase year-on-year of 2.8% more carjackings vs Q3 2021/22 – 5,608 cases up from 5,455 – taking the full calendar year into account shows a 15% jump in hijackings in 2022 versus 2021.

The table below outlines the five-year data.

Year Total Carjacking (Jan-Dec) Average per day Est. Population (StatsSA) per 100k people
2018 16 008 43.9 57.73 million 27.7
2019 17 777 48.7 58.78 million 30.2
2020 16 577 45.4 59.62 million 27.8
2021 20 087 55.0 60.14 million 33.4
2022 23 025 63.1 61.07 million 37.7

As with most of the crime categories tracked by the SAPS, carjackings are most prevalent in South Africa’s most populous regions, such as Gauteng, the Western Cape and KwaZulu Natal.

Notably, Gauteng has seen a decrease in carjackings over the most recent quarter – however, it still ranks as the worst province in the country for the number of hijackings it experiences. The province recorded 2,632 cases, more than three times the number of cases in the Western Cape.

While coming off a lower base, the Eastern Cape saw a significant jump in cases, up almost 47% from the same quarter in 2021.

Taking annual data into account, the picture is harrowing, particularly for Gauteng.

Coming off an already high base, the province saw a 12.1% jump in hijackings to 11,626 cases in 2022. This is an average of 32 carjackings every day in the province. When looking at it as a rate per 100,000 people, though, this is a rate of 71.7 hijackings.

This is significantly higher than the other provinces.

The table below outlines the calendar year data for the provinces:

Province Total carjacking (2022) Average per day Est. Population (StatsSA) per 100k people
Gauteng 11 626 31.9 16.23  million 71.7
Western Cape 3 052 8.4  7.27 million 42.0
KwaZulu Natal 3 757 10.3 11.65 million 32.2
Eastern Cape 1 835 5.0 6.66 million 27.6
Mpumpalanga 1 315 3.6 4.82 million 27.2
North-West 584 1.6 4.20 million 13.9
Limpopo 558 1.5 5.97  million 9.3
Free State 262 0.7 2.95 million 8.9
Northern Cape 36 0.1 1.32 million 2.73
South Africa 23 025 63.1 61.07 million 37.7

Looking at more granular station data for the latest quarter, despite Gauteng having the worst concentration of hijackings in the country, Nyanga in the Western Cape is the precinct with the highest number of hijackings, with the figure jumping 26.4% off an already higher base.

Olievenhoutbosch in Gauteng remains the province’s worst spot, while Kwazakele ranks as the top spot in the Eastern Cape. Umlazi in KZN is the worst spot in the province, despite ranking 12th overall.

In terms of hijacking targets, the main types of vehicles being hijacked are sedans and hatchbacks, followed by bakkies and then SUVs.

This data is not that surprising, given that these are the most common vehicles on the roads.

Reports from private security services in 2022 align with these general categories. Fidelity ADT and Tracker have previously warned that the following vehicles are often targetted in South Africa:

  • Toyota Hilux
  • Volkswagen Polo
  • Toyota Quantum
  • Nissan NP200
  • Toyota Fortuner
  • Toyota Etios
  • Toyota Yaris
  • Ford Ranger
  • Ford Figo
  • Nissan Navara

Security experts have also warned of a growing trend in kidnappings in South Africa, with previous data from the SAPS showing that a significant portion of reported kidnappings are related to hijackings.

These are cases where criminals try to get the most out of their victims during a hijacking by abducting them and forcing them to withdraw cash or give over more items in return for their safety.

Read: Violent crime in South Africa is getting worse – here are all the latest stats

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