By Kaya 959 News
Police have urged motorists not to give lifts to hitchhikers. The SAPS issued the warning following a spate of incidents in Mpumalanga.
Brigadier Leonard Hlathi says offering lifts to strangers is dangerous.
“One of the incidents which occurred at Delmas, where a man who was driving a silver-grey Toyota Etios on the N12, saw three men who appeared to be hitch-hiking. The men were wearing reflector jackets as well as blue work suits, which seemed as if they had just knocked off from work,” Hlathi said in a statement.
A sympathetic driver offered the men a lift, but the “hitchhikers” took advantage of his kind gesture.
“One of the suspects took out a rope and strangled the driver, forcing him to the back seat of the vehicle. They then drove with him but later abandoned him at a secluded area and drove away in his vehicle. ”
Hitchhikers become victims
Hlathi says hitchhikers have also become victims of crime after being offered lifts.
“A 45-year-old man also became a victim of a hitch-hiking scam, an incident which occurred on 19 June 2021, as he was travelling from Sabie to White River. He was offered a lift by three suspects who were driving in a blue Suzuki vehicle.
“Along the way, the driver stopped the vehicle and demanded the victim’s cell phone while pointing him with a firearm. The suspects reportedly robbed the victim of his cash as well as bank cards and further instructed him to electronically transfer cash to them. The suspects then ordered him to alight their vehicle too, firing some shots to scare him as he ran off.”
Hlathi says some hitchhikers have been held hostage and the suspects “used their bank cards to withdraw cash from the ATMs against their will”.
In one of the worst cases, two women were raped when they accepted a lift from unknown men.
The Mankweng Taxi Association told Review Online (Polokwane) that most of the vehicles robbing hitchhikers have Gauteng registration numbers.
“These vehicles usually stop at the hiking spot in Grobler Street just after Voortrekker Street and pick people up, but at times, they never make it to Mankweng,” the association’s Charles Sefoko told the publication.
Mpumalanga’s Acting Provincial Commissioner, Major General Thulani Phahla, says hitchhiking or offering lifts to strangers is never a good idea.
“We are aware of the economic challenges that our people are faced with, however; lives of citizens are more precious than anything else.”