Police in Mahikeng have arrested three men suspected of being the ring leaders of a gang who posed as police officers to target travellers from Botswana, robbing their victims of their vehicles and cash over a seven-month reign of terror.
Yesterday, South African Police Service’s brigadier Sabata Mokgwabone told The Monitor that 24 vehicles had been recovered, 21 of these in Mahikeng and the rest in Seweding village in Kuruman, Northern Cape.
He said it was presently unclear how many of the vehicles were from Botswana as the plate numbers had been altered. Police are currently verifying the vehicles’ registration, while some owners have been able to identify their property.
“One suspect is still on the run and we are on the hunt for him,” he said by telephone.
“Some of the vehicles have been identified by their owners, and while we will need to verify the registrations, it is clear some of these vehicles are from Botswana.” According to the police, the suspects targeted vehicles bearing Botswana registration between September 2018 and March 2019, most of these entering South Africa through the Ramatlabama gate.
Victims were stopped by the fake police, before being robbed of their vehicles, cash and valuables. The suspects sometimes forced their victims to withdraw cash from ATM. “Information available suggests the suspects used a blue light and posed as either traffic or police officers to stop unsuspecting victims.
“The suspects would then take the victims vehicles, before robbing them of their cash and other valuables, including bank cards. “In some instances, the victims were coerced to disclose their bank cards PIN codes and these would be used to withdraw cash from the victim’s accounts,” Mokgwabone said.
The three suspects are due to appear before the Mmabatho Magistrate’s Court today (Monday) facing charges of car-jacking, aggravated robbery and kidnapping.
Mokgwabone said all the suspects in the matter were South African citizens, with those in custody aged between 25 and 30 years of age.
They were arrested last Thursday by the Mahikeng Flying Squad and Cluster Trio Task Team in Mothibistad in the Northern Cape.
The arrests bring huge relief to Batswana travellers, who had grown fearful of crossing into South Africa as reports of the hijackings intensified late last year.