Seven hijackings in two weeks have persuaded investigators that a gang of police impersonators are terrorising the northern and eastern suburbs.
However, police higher-ups are saying the crimes could not have been committed without the help of corrupt police officers.
This latest development came after The Star’s report on Monday of an incident on Main Road in Bryanston, where resident Ryan Pickford was hijacked and subjected to almost two hours of verbal abuse at gunpoint after being “arrested” by men claiming to be police officers.
Numerous other similar incidents have been reported to The Star since the story appeared. The police say four other incidents have been confirmed in seven days. However, another two incidents that took place earlier this month have also come to The Star’s attention.
In all seven cases, the drivers of expensive cars have been pulled over by unmarked vehicles using a blue light.
After pulling over, the victims were approached by men in full police uniform and carrying R5 rifles, who would handcuff and “arrest” them.
The victims’ cars would then be stolen, with the victim driven around in the back of the “police” vehicle for hours before being dropped off a few kilometres from where they were hijacked.
In the majority of the incidents, the three to five gang members were seen driving a white Golf GTI.
Now the police are warning Joburg residents to avoid pulling over in deserted areas at night and suggest driving to well-lit and populated places (such as petrol stations) before coming to a stop.
The Gauteng police’s head of visible policing, Major-General Phumzo Gela, said it was well within a driver’s right to drive to the nearest police station when being pursued by police vehicles – marked or unmarked – and that a police officer must give his identity if asked for it.
“These are your rights. We are here to serve you,” said Gela.
He called on residents in the affected areas to report any information that might assist to 10111, as five of the cases had been centralised and a task team put together to deal with them.
Suspicious-looking blue-light vehicles should be remembered, with residents taking down registration numbers and any other details, including the name tags and badges of police officers when pulled over.
“We can’t deny that members of the police force are involved,” Gela said, adding that police commanders would be investigating their forces to root out any potential officers supporting this gang with equipment or uniforms.
Gela also asked that the public not forget all the good work done by the police over the past two years, a time in which crime statistics in Gauteng had dropped steadily.
Police have not identified any suspects in the blue-light gang that has stolen at least seven cars.
None of the victims in the hijackings have been harmed.
Gangs in uniform have been stalking Gauteng drivers for years
* Ryan Pickford was pulled over by a white Golf GTI on Friday after visiting his son and wife in high care at Morningside Clinic.
He had been driving up Main Road in Bryanston at around 8pm when the car signalled for him to pull over.
The officers asked to search his car, and when he said no, they harassed him for a few minutes until he agreed.
The officers, in full uniform and carrying R5 rifles and handguns, instructed him to get out of the vehicle, and when he obliged, they handcuffed him.
They led him to their car, and another man drove off in his Porsche Cayenne.
When he was handcuffed in the back seat, he was informed that he was being hijacked. He was kept at gunpoint for almost an hour-and-a-half and was harassed verbally before being dropped off in the veld in Centurion.
* Rahendra Naidoo was also a victim of what appears to be the same men driving the same car.
On May 7 he was pulled over in Sonnebloem Road in Midrand by five uniformed men, who were also wielding heavy rifles.
The men told him that his Mazda MPS had been reported stolen, and arrested him.
One of the men drove off in his car, and he was placed in the back of a white Golf GTI.
The criminals spent a large portion of the three-hour kidnapping asking Naidoo for the details of his car's tracking system, before eventually shoving him into the car's boot.
He was reassured that he would not be hurt and that the men were “professionals”, before being dropped off in a secluded area in Lombardy East. His car was recovered in Soweto a few days later.
* On May 9, just days after Rahendra Naidoo was relieved of his car, another man, whose identity has not been determined by The Star, was also stopped by a blue-light gang travelling in a Golf GTI.
The man had been making his way past Blue Valley golf course on Beauly Avenue in Midrand.
A source at the man's vehicle-tracking company said he had also been pulled over by men claiming to be police officers before being taken from the scene and dumped dozens of kilometres away several hours later. The location of the man's Audi RS4 is unknown.
* The IOL's own motoring editor, Jason Woosey, experienced his own “police” hijacking in Bryanston in 2010.
He had also been travelling through Bryanston when he was pulled over by a black Audi with a blue light near the corner of William Nicol and Main Road.
The uniformed men kidnapped him and left him in Modderfontein after stealing his car. The case was reported at the Douglasdale police station in March 2010. No arrests have been made.
* Kyle Goncalves was also a victim in June 2010, but of a gang bold enough to use a marked police vehicle. Driving along Baart Avenue in Raslow, Centurion, the men told him to get out of his Golf GTI.
“As I jumped out and presented my licence, two of the cops grabbed me and threw me in the back seat of my car. I was with these guys for about three hours, making four stops on the way.
“I then had a black bag put over my head and was dragged through the veld, where I was left alone for a couple of minutes, thinking that I was going to die,” said Goncalves.
Another group of people picked the traumatised man up and told him to relax as they were “the drop-off guys”.
They dropped him off in Pretoria and told him to run and not look back, or else he would be killed.
Fake cop got 35 years
William “King of Bling” Mbatha was sentenced to 35 years’ jail last month for impersonating a police officer.
He – along with several accomplices – would kidnap, assault and rob his victims while pretending to be a member of the SAPS.
Mbatha was sentenced to 15 years on each of the five counts of robbery with aggravating circumstances, and five years on each of the three counts of kidnapping.
He also got five years on each of the four counts of possession of an illegal firearm.
His sentence included six months on each of the three counts of impersonating a police officer and six on each of the three counts of wearing a police uniform.
Some of the sentences are to run concurrently.