Lowveld tourists targeted by robbers in traffic cop uniforms
A spate of hijackings and robberies of tourists in the Mpumulanga towns of Graskop and Sabie have seen tourism associations warning travellers to be vigilant.
In six incidents in the past two weeks, tourists from the Netherlands, Germany and Spain have been targeted by criminals posing as traffic officers, pulling vehicles over and robbing the tourists of passports, wallets, phones and luggage.
Kruger Lowveld Chamber of Business and Tourism's Lisa Sheard said crime against tourists was particularly problematic, as tourists were vulnerable "in a foreign place, driving on the wrong side of the road and not speaking the local language".
"Following a number of robberies of tourists along the roads around Graskop and Sabie at the long weekend, Kruger Lowveld Tourism is taking the matter up at the highest possible levels to secure strong government and police intervention," she said.
"This morning a high-level priority meeting of government, law-enforcement and private sector stakeholders was held, where existing structures were reinforced and additional measures were proposed and implemented," she said.
"The cases have been escalated to ensure priority investigation and we are hopeful that arrests will be made soon."
Sheard said the incidents took place in the late afternoon and early evening, adding that tourists should be extra vigilant and avoid driving during these times.
She said the aggrieved tourists were receiving support.
Hoedspruit Tourism Association said it was aware of the incidents and had urged tourists to be cautious.
"Some of these incidents have directly involved tourists being targeted," the association said.
"MTPA Tourism Safety office, the SAPS, Kruger Lowveld Tourism, local tourism organisations, as well as several national organisations have been involved in supporting the victims; obtaining information in the hope that it may lead to a speedy arrest of the perpetrators; and raising visibility of police and security on affected routes," it said.
SAPS spokesperson Col Mtsholi Bhembe said law-enforcement officials in the area were aware of the incidents and urged anyone with information to come forward and help in the investigation.
"We are still investigating the incidents and no arrests have been made. We are appealing for information. Some complainants reported reflective jackets were being worn and the perpetrators are posing as traffic officers and tour guides," she said.