Most South Africans expressed shock over the incident earlier this week in which Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga and two police officers assigned to her security detail were robbed.
But a security expert said the incident was not shocking, given the high crime levels rampant in South Africa.
Speaking to IOL, renowned crime analyst and private investigator, Calvin Rafadi, said concerned citizens and players in the security sector had been raising red flags over the unprecedented levels of crimes.
“I was not shocked at all by the incident. We have been doing awareness campaigns, especially about the placing of spikes and sharp objects on the roads. There are also cases of bricks being thrown from high bridges to distract motorists and rob them.
“The other trend is for criminals to intentionally bump your car so that you stop,” he said.
He said the cars that are often targeted by the hijackers are new vehicles, without number plates and displaying a permit on the windows, as it tells criminals that the vehicle was recently purchased.
He said that in the eyes of criminals, there are higher chances that the process of installing a tracking device might not yet have been concluded.
Rafadi added that private sector law enforcement agents and experts like himself have worked with police to eliminate the criminals causing havoc on notorious routes like the R80/Mabopane highway in Tshwane.
“On that road, the criminals used to target people who were jogging or on bikes. As the crime increased, they started robbing motorists by putting spikes on the road. They wait for times when it is dark, and they put the spikes across the road,” he said.
“The criminals are heavily armed, and they do not hesitate to shoot. In an encounter with these brazen criminals, the one who draws his/her weapon first has an edge; there is nothing you can do but surrender.
“In the incident of the minister, it was a bonus for the criminals to find the firearms (on the police officers). They (criminals) need the firearms to commit other crimes,” said Rafadi.
He said if the incident was thoroughly investigated, the culprits would be traced and arrested because community members often knew the criminals living in their area.
Police Minister Bheki Cele has not ruled out the possibility of an inside job after Chikunga and her VIP protectors were robbed of firearms and cellphones while changing a tyre that had been punctured.
The incident happened on the N3 between Vosloorus and Heidelberg on Monday morning.
It is reported that Chikunga, in the company of her brother and VIP protectors, was travelling from Estcourt, KwaZulu-Natal.
Cele said the criminals had become so brazen that not even politicians, nor ministers, were immune to their attacks.
“When the car was spiked, the (occupants) drove on for about 4km to change their tyres. As they were finishing, they were approached by four guys who were armed and ordered everyone to ‘sleep’ on their stomachs. We are thankful that nobody lost their lives as they were violent and took some money.
“My problem is that it looks like there was some form of information that they had. This shows that we are all victims of crime in this country,” Cele said.
Police confirmed that they were investigating a case of armed robbery.
As a tip to motorists, Rafadi advised that when confronted by criminals, one must unfortunately surrender, because the robbers “do not hesitate to shoot”.
“Imagine if I was killed for a Mazda 323 in the 1980s? Nowadays, that same car is worth nothing. For any material, your life should be more precious than the gadget or trying to be a hero. We all hate criminals; we are not promoting criminals, but when one is caught up in a situation with criminals, give them what they want.
“In that situation of being confronted by the criminals, avoid making eye contact and get a good measure of key details, including height and clothing items, because such information might help when they are caught,” said Rafadi.
On Tuesday, Chikunga recounted the traumatic robbery incident where a gun was pointed at her head.
The robbery took place at around 3.30am when the vehicle she was in had a puncture.
“I was sitting in the car, and then I could hear there was something happening. When I looked out, indeed, there were people with guns pointing at the protectors.”
She also said the bodyguards were ordered to lie down, and the robbers came to the door of the vehicle.
“At the time I realised something was happening, I tried to take my phone and try to phone. Just before I could do anything, they opened the door, pointed the gun at my head, and ordered me out,” she said.
Chikunga said the well-dressed men, in their late 20s or early 30s, were wearing balaclavas and asked for money.
“Among the things they said, which I think is worth taking note of, was ‘we know that you have money; give us the money’. I said I don’t carry money with me. I only have R200 in my bag,” she said. The men opened her bag and found the cash and a cellphone on the seat.
“When I got out of the car, I looked at the person. He had a balaclava on, but I looked at this person. I did not want to continue doing that, because I thought maybe he is going to shoot me if he realises I can recognise him,” the minister added.