Truck wars have erupted between Botswana and South Africa truck owners with several Botswana registered trucks disappearing into thin air in South Africa.
Some South African criminals are demanding a ransom of close to P400 000 to release a Botswana registered truck, it has emerged.
Investigations carried out by The Telegraph have revealed rivalries among truck owners.
The groups include local truck owners and non citizens whose trucks ply long distances across the border who have now resorted to engaging criminal syndicates from both Botswana and South Africa to target Botswana registered trucks.
Investigations reveal that non citizens who also have locally registered companies want to remove the locals from the industry as they want to take the lion’s share of the market.
The newly registered Botswana Trucks Association wants the industry to be regulated as it is dominated by non citizens.
Some unsuspecting truck drivers from Botswana have fallen victim to hijacking after being given directions by some so-called ‘customers’ who had paid a certain fee to have their consignment collected in some parts of South Africa.
The investigations also reveal that one of the suspected crime syndicate was involved in one of the bomb scare threat sometime last year in Gaborone. Officer commanding at Serious Crime Squad detective senior superintendent Richard Bareedi said, “it is true that there are about four cases that have been reported to us in which trucks were hijacked in South Africa.”
He stated that the South African Police Service (SAPS) are the main investigators in this matter as the incidents occurred in South Africa.
He said the Botswana police is assisting SAPS with whatever information that they may need during the investigations. “If my memory serves me well, no suspects have been arrested in connection with truck hijacking in South Africa,” he said.
He warned truck owners not to be too excited when a customer engages them to collect goods across the country. Instead, he said, they should first verify whether the service is genuine or not as that could avoid unnecessary hijackings of their trucks.
The director of Middleton Logistics, Hapson Mushore, said he strongly suspects that there is a cross border criminal syndicate that is now targeting Botswana registered trucks.
He said his company has just lost two trucks within a short space of six months after they were hijacked in South Africa last year.
He explained that last year in December, a local customer came to his office and wanted his consignment to be collected from South Africa and transported to Botswana. Mushore said the customer then paid the required amount and the truck was then sent to South Africa to collect the said goods. “Upon arrival at where the goods were to be collected, hijackers pointed guns at the driver and fled with the truck,” he said.
Mushore said the truck driver, who was unharmed, then reported the matter to the nearest police station in Johannesburg. He stated that few days later, he received a call from Mozambique in which the alleged customers asked him for a ransom of about P400┬á000 promising to give him directions to where the truck could be found.
“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing at that moment and I was shivering,” he said.
He said he later informed the Serious Crime Squad as well as the police officers from the SAPS who are currently investigating the case. “Unfortunately the police have not made any breakthroughs, “he said.
The newly elected executive secretary of Botswana Truckers Association (BOTRA), Tsholofelo Mogotsi, said although his office has not yet received formal complaints from the affected members, they have learnt about the allegations and once they are reported formally they will take up the matter.
He said his office is aware of a case in which a Botswana registered truck was hijacked in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the suspect is believed to be a Motswana.
“He said some locals truckers hardly go to DRC because their insurances don’t cover for them as it is regarded as the most dangerous country within the SADC countries,” he said. He said the industry is faced with some problems and he appealed to truck owners to join the association so that they can speak with one voice.┬á┬á ┬á┬á┬á