File photo: Gary van Wyk / Independent Newspapers.

Johannesburg - The latest SAPS crime statistics, released in Parliament on Tuesday, show that vehicle hijackings continue to rise at an alarming rate.

Carjackings in South Africa reached a new 10-year high of 16 717 in the 2016/2017 period under review, up 14.5 percent from last year. These hijackings actually declined from 14 855 to 9417 between the 2008/09 and 2011/12 review periods, but since then have increased by a whopping 77.5 percent to 16  717. That’s 46 cars a day.

More than half of all carjackings (8610) took place in Gauteng, which saw a 16.9 percent increase over the previous reporting period. Next was KwaZulu-Natal with 3029 hijackings, up 21.5 percent, and followed by the Western Cape (2201), up 8.3 percent.

The biggest spike was Mpumalanga, registering a 28.8 percent increase from 629 to 810.

The Eastern Cape, in fourth place, saw a marginal decline, from 956 to 955, while Limpopo was up two percent from 450 to 459 and the North West by 5.4 percent (from 370 to 390), while the Free State was down 9.3 percent (from 258 to 234). 

The Northern Cape, however, which might seem like a statistical anomaly given that just 29 hijackings occurred there, nevertheless recorded a decline of 38.3 percent.

Truck hijackings 

Truck hijackings in South Africa saw a negligible decline from 1184 to 1183, although some of the provinces did experience worrying increases.

Gauteng still rules the roost here, with 668 recorded in 2016/17, albeit down 3.9 percent. Second highest was Mpumalanga, at 178, down 8.2%, with the Eastern Cape in third place, up 51.9 percent to 82.

These were followed by KZN (81 hijackings, +14.1%), Western Cape (58, +26.1%), North West (48, +14.3%), Free State (41, -36.9), Limpopo (27, +80%). 

No truck hijackings were recorded in the Northern Cape, down from two last year.

Vehicle thefts down

Actual thefts of motor vehicles in SA were down 0.9 percent, from 53 809 to 53 307 in the 2016/17 period, implying that sophisticated modern vehicle security systems are doing their job, albeit at the expense of those motorists who become hijacking victims.

No surprise that more than half of all vehicle thefts, 27 674 in total, took place in Gauteng. Second was KZN with 8413 reported incidents, followed by the Western Cape (7381), Eastern Cape (2739), Mpumalanga (2208), North West (2068), Free State (1588), Limpopo (1017) and Northern Cape (219).

Most provinces were marginally down on last year, with the exception of Gauteng (up 3.9%) and Eastern Cape (up 2.3%).

Political interference blamed

Although vehicle theft levels remain extremely high, it’s the hijacking trend that remains most worrying to motorists, given how it affects their basic safety.

The Institute for Security Studies said that SA’s steady rise in armed robbery (up 6.4 percent year on year) and murder (up 1.8 percent) could largely be attributed to “inappropriate political interference in the police”, which had "weakened" the organisation. 

Furthermore, ISS head Gareth Newham added: “The same criminals commit many violent crimes from murder to hijacking and armed robbery. Failure by police to identify violent criminals and investigate their crimes just keeps them on the street as a continued public danger. Police could prevent hundreds of hijackings by stopping the activity of just one syndicate.”

IOL Motoring

Graphics courtesy of the SAPS.

Also read: How to avoid car theft and hijacking