Warning for motorists filling up at petrol stations in South Africa

 ·23 Apr 2024

Experts have warned that motorists at petrol stations are easy targets for hijackers, as there’s been a notable uptick in the number of incidents reported, while the petrol stations themselves are also vulnerable.

This warning comes after the murder of Kaizer Chiefs defender Luke Fleurs during a hijacking incident at a petrol station in Honeydew earlier this month and the attempted ATM robbery at another in Nelspruit, reported by the SAPS.

Speaking to SABC News, Louis Nyahunda, Senior Research Fellow at the Tshwane University of Technology Department of Law, Safety and Security Management, said the increase in reported incidents at petrol stations is a major red flag.

“The increase in petrol station-related crimes is a big concern,” he said, adding that petrol stations were highly vulnerable due to the calibre of attractive assets found there.

He said the main targets of criminals and hijackers at the stations are cash, ATMs, customers’ cars, and cell phones.

This makes both the petrol station and its customers the targets, and the increase in ATM bombings has also piqued the interest of law officials.

Nyahunda noted that petrol stations are identified by criminals as ideal locations to commit criminal acts because of the glaring lack of security, the lack of devices to counter crime and inefficient and poor policing.

Security experts have cautioned South African motorists to stay alert while filling up, note their surroundings and suspicious characters in the area, and keep their doors locked.

In the case of a hijacking, they recommend that you give up your vehicle and valuables without a fight, as this is likely to save your life.

The experts also noted that traffic lights across the country remain a hijacking hotspot, and similar precautions and vigilance should be taken when stationed at a red light.

South Africa has seen an increase in hijackings year-on-year, with some provinces experiencing a bigger jump in hijackings than others.

The South African Police Service (SAPS) noted that 5,973 cars were hijacked over the third quarter of the year (October to December 2023).

This equates to approximately 66 cars being stolen daily, a 6.5% rise from the same period in 2022.

According to the SAPS, three provinces experienced a notable year-on-year increase (>10%) in hijackings – these being the Gauteng (14.4%), the Western Cape (14%) and North West (11%).

Interestingly, Kwa-Zulu Natal saw a 17.6% decrease in carjackings, followed by the Eastern Cape (-5.2%).

Targeted vehicles

According to Wahl Bartmann, CEO of Fidelity Services Group, hijackers in South Africa often focus on popular car models like Fords, Nissans, Toyotas, and VWs.

These vehicles are in high demand on the black market across the continent. As Bartmann explained earlier this year to BusinessTech, vehicle hijackings are mostly driven by supply and demand dynamics within the criminal marketplace.

In recent times, the RAV 4 and Toyota Corolla Cross have become high-risk models.

The Corolla Cross was launched in November 2021 and consistently ranked among the country’s best-selling cars in 2023/24. It sold over 22,000 units and secured fourth place on Naamsa’s top 10 list.

It has remained within the top five through most of the first half of 2024. This remains true for other Toyoas (such as the Hilux), VWs (Polos), and Fords (the Ranger).

“Hijackers target specific vehicles for a specific purpose and market. The demand for Toyotas, VWs, Fords, and Nissans remains high on the black market,” he said.

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