Johannesburg - In another brazen robbery targeting tourists, a bus load of visitors from India have been robbed of their belongings by two men impersonating police officers.
They were targeted while travelling on the Cleveland off-ramp on the M2 at about 11.30am on Saturday, while on their way to Gold Reef City.
Police spokesman Captain Mavela Masondo explained how the thugs pulled off their daring daylight robbery.
“Two suspects dressed as police officers pulled the bus over and used this to intimidate and rob the tourists. They were in an unmarked white VW Polo.
“They showed the driver police badges telling him that they needed to search the bus.
“The men then got onto the bus and robbed the bus driver of R800, the tourists of $700 (R10 606) and four cellphones,” Masondo said. They got off the bus and drove off.
Masondo said a manhunt had been launched for the suspects.
On Sunday, Gauteng Tourism Agency (GTA) spokesman Barba Gaoganediwe said the rise in tourist-targeted crimes was a concern. “It’s a big worry for us, especially when the industry is just recovering.
“It undermines all the hard work that role-players and members of the industry have put in to build it up. Tourism is a major contributor to the country's GDP,” he pointed out.
He said the GTA was particularly worried because this type of crime had reared its head again following successful arrests in Joburg earlier this year.
Gaoganediwe said there had been a clampdown on the OR Tambo International Airport gang who followed tourists to their destinations and criminals following the Red Bus Tour in Joburg.
He added that they were working together with the Tourism Business Council of SA on a tourism safety initiative. “This entails an incident-recording system, and we also have a joint response team where different safety officials are instantly informed of such incidents.”
Dedicated detectives and specialised police units were also working to prevent the robberies, he said.
“We also have a victim-support programme where we provide victims assistance with passports and documentation needed to either continue their travels around the country or to help them return home safely.
“We will continue working with police to be tourist-friendly,” Gaoganediwe said.
Last month, US tourist CJ Small, attending the South African Funeral Director and Morticians' Association Convention, was shot in the face and robbed by gunmen on the tour bus he was travelling on in Joburg.
Small has since returned to the US, and according to his Facebook page, returned to work earlier this month.
In January, an Angolan journalist was shot after robbers climbed into the taxi he and his crew had taken from OR Tambo Airport to Sandton. Two of the robbers allegedly forced their way into the vehicle, with one taking the wheel while the other robbed them at gunpoint of money and cellphones.
In a third incident, also in January, two tourists were robbed at gunpoint of R100 000 and their luggage, passports and airline tickets.