Thursday, November 19, 2009

Motorists run gauntlet on highway

Bring on 2010! Let these incidents be highlighted in the international press.

By Graeme Hosken

Gangs of armed robbers are attacking motorists on the R21 Highway - the main road linking OR Tambo International Airport to Pretoria.

The gangs, which are also attacking construction workers upgrading the highway, have left a trail of terror behind them over the past three months.

The gang's ambushes, which have included attacks on businessmen and a US Aid agency employee, have left at least four motorists and a security guard at a construction site seriously injured after they were shot by the robbers.

The most recent attack took place last Tuesday night when a businessman was shot in the legs as he was changing a flat tyre on his car.

The robbers, who number between eight and 20, operate between the Tembisa Road Bridge and the N1/R21 interchange between 9pm and 4am, with most of the attacks occurring near St George's Hotel.

The attacks are carried out with the robbers either lining rocks on the highway or throwing debris off bridges into the path of oncoming cars.

They target motorists using the north-bound lanes.

While police have known about the attacks since September, they have done little to warn the thousands of motorists who use the highway every day of the dangers.

The only warning has come from the Pierre van Ryneveld community policing forum (CPF) which recently cautioned motorists about the attacks.

While police claim that they are conducting clandestine operations to catch the robbers, they seem to be operating with impunity as there have been no arrests.

Businessman Jannie Schoeman recently survived an attack when he was held up near St George's Hotel.

He was returning home from Midrand along the Olifantsfontein Road when he hit a pothole.

"As I stopped and got out to change the tyre, two men armed with knives attacked and forced me into a field.

"They stole my watch, wallet and cellphone. When I tried to escape they grabbed me and tied me up with barbed wire," he said, pointing the scars on his wrists.

The men eventually let Schoeman go, threatening to kill him if he did not reach the road within two minutes.

"I was terrified. I thought they were going to kill me," he said, adding that the Lyttelton police had been useless in trying to solve his attack, which had taken place in broad daylight.

He said that when he offered to take the detective investigating his case to where he was attacked the policeman was not interested.

"It is just a matter of time before someone is killed," Schoeman said.

US Agency for International Development employee Thobekile Finger said she and an airport shuttle service driver were attacked in September as they returned from the airport.

"We hit a rock on the road. When we stopped to change the tyre, a group of men ran at us shooting. We tried to escape, but they caught us," she said, describing how a robber pushed a gun into her face and threatened to kill her.

She said the men demanded their valuables, which they stole before they fled.

Henk Kaal, a construction site engineer on the Sanral R21 upgrade project, said there had been several attacks on the highway's construction sites.

"Three weeks ago one of our site guards was shot in the stomach at the N1/R21 interchange by thieves stealing batteries.

"As well as attacking the construction sites, the robbers also drop rocks off bridges onto motorists travelling beneath," said Kaal.

CPF spokeswoman Willa de Ruyter said they were concerned about the attacks, "especially with the sudden increase in the past weeks and the fact that the robbers do not hesitate to shoot".

CPF chairman Sampie Niemand said that in one of the attacks robbers shot a city businessman in the leg as he tried to change his car tyre.

"Fortunately, he was able to drive off and stop near Irene Village Mall to get help," he said.

Niemand said the attackers were stealing laptops, cellphones, money and valuables such as jewellery.

He urged motorists who hit rocks or other debris on the road to continue driving to the nearest safe place if possible.

Police Inspector Duane Lightfoot said police were conducting clandestine operations along the highway.

4 Opinion(s):

Doberman said...

Crime is spilling out of the seams. It has entered the mainstream fabric of South African society. To expect crime is normal. To expect not to die in a crime incident is a bonus. Well done all liberals, you must be proud of your creation.

Anonymous said...

Dobes - the libs are usually the first to high tail it when the going gets tough. They've long run off to cause mayhem somewhere else and left the good people to clean up their mess. Those libs remaining are the ones that are employed as managers by BEEEEE companies as payment. Bunch of turncoats the lot of them.

Anonymous said...

South Africa -
Alive with possibilities !

Anonymous said...

Surely anyone stopping at man-made obstacles that are not a normal part of the roadway can use a cell-phone to contact any of the road assistance organisations (e.g 1011 etc) and wait for assistance to arrive befor getting out of a vehicle?