hijacking
As much as 90% of South Africa’s truck hijackings involve inside sources tipping off criminals with crucial information, and it costs the economy R10 billion a year. (Pixabay)
  • Over the past ten years, the freight industry has reported 11,122 heists to the police.
  • These hijackings cost the South African economy as much as R10 billion a year.
  • Over the past four years, truck seizures have become more violent.
  • Delmas in Mpumalanga is the truck hijacking capital of South Africa.

As much as 90% of South Africa’s truck hijackings involve inside sources tipping off criminals with crucial information, and it costs the economy R10 billion a year. 

This is according to Andre Duvenhage, chairman of the South African chapter of Transported Asset Protection Association (Tapa). Tapa is an international association of the world’s major manufacturers, together with logistics and security companies. 

Duvenhage, who was a policeman in the truck anti-hijacking unit in the 90s, adds that truck hijacking syndicates are “sophisticated” and strike with a level of precision. 

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According to Road Freight Association (RFA) CEO Gavin Kelly “a fair amount of the hijackings involve individuals within the organisation that either manufacture a product, store it, or transport it”. 

Over the past ten years, the freight industry has reported 11,122 truck heists to the police, an average of over 1,110 each year. 

Gauteng is the primary centre for the hijackings, with more than half of all reported cases taking place in the province. 

Delmas police station in Mpumalanga had the most reported cases of truck heists in the country, a total of 33, in the 2018/19 South African Police Services (SAPS) year. 

Mpumalanga police spokesperson Leonard Hlathi says that the Delmas area has many exit roads, including four major ones, which makes it easier for criminals to make a quick getaway. 

See also: Your car is still the safest in the Northern Cape and Limpopo - even after massive spikes of hijacking in both provinces

Duvenhage told Business Insider that at a minimum, truck heists cost the local economy R10 billion a year, as he believes many hits are not reported. The South African Insurance Crime Bureau put the cost of truck looting at over R3 billion a year, Polity reported. 

Replacing stolen goods is significantly more than the original cost, including the price for urgent freight delivery of replacement items. “To replace one stolen electronics load would probably cost two-and-a-half times the original cost,” Duvenhage says. 

Kelly says that over the past four years, truck robberies have become more violent and many criminals presented themselves as police or traffic officers. “Once [a criminal] has stopped a vehicle it is at their mercy,” he says. 

Kelly adds that trucks carrying alcohol get nailed a lot, especially over Christmas and Easter when sales are higher. Duvenhage says that the robbers also look for electronic and consumer goods. Fuel trucks also get hit often.

Hlathi says that the top commodities stolen in the 2018/19 SAPS year in the Delmas area were soybeans, diesel, yellow maize, and biscuits. Other cargoes stolen were tyres, coal, groceries, furniture, stationery, and electric cables. 

See also: 5 things to do when you're being hijacked, including a smooth seatbelt manoeuvre

Apart from the cargoes on board, criminals also target trucks to strip the parts. 

Several measures are in place to try and prevent strikes on heavy-goods vehicles, including identifying hotspots and avoiding driving in certain areas at dangerous times of the day, Kelly says. 

Four years ago, the SAPS re-established the truck anti-hijacking unit, and this has been a help to the freight industry, he adds. “SAPS now have hijacking units that respond much quicker. They have a dedicated control centre that collates all hijacking cases across the various regions,” Kelly says.