/ 13 July 2023

Police, security firm swoop on truck drivers over freeway attacks

Screenshot2023 07 12at08.23.40
One of four trucks that was torched on the N2 near Ermelo in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

A private security company has arrested the man seen on a dashcam video allegedly forcing a truck driver out of his vehicle on the N2 near Ermelo moments before setting it alight and jumping out.    

Police spokesperson Brigadier Athlenda Mathe had earlier on Thursday confirmed that the police had arrested two suspects, who are employed as truck drivers, in connection with the torching of 21 trucks on the N1, N2, N3 and R577 roads in Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal this week.       

Anti Crime Security Unit (ACSU) investigator Bester Maree told the Mail & Guardian that the company had received intelligence regarding the whereabouts of the man caught on video on Wednesday evening before arresting him and handing him over to the police. He said police had then arrested a further two suspects after getting information from the man’s cell phone.

A video of the suspect arrested by the security company, whose facial features are clearly identifiable in the footage, circulated widely on social media, particularly among trucking WhatsApp groups, with logistics business owners fed up with the crime in the sector determined to bring him to book.     

The video shows a truck driver getting out of his vehicle and the suspect jumping into the cab. He is then seen throwing something into the back of the vehicle before he sets it alight and jumps out within seconds of flames engulfing the cab.  

Maree said the video is “legitimate” and belongs to one of the security company’s clients. He declined to identify the haulage company.   

“We got the information [about the suspect in the video] at around 6pm regarding where he stays and we sent scouts to look for the house. He only arrived at his house at around 12am and we arrested him at around 1.30am,” Maree said.  

He said the security company’s investigators arrested the man at a house between the areas of Piet Retief and Wakkerstroom in Mpumalanga and handed him over to the police.

Maree said security officers had also on Thursday apprehended a second suspect for allegedly throwing rocks at a truck a week ago.  Both have been charged with malicious damage to property. He said the two suspects were employed in the logistics sector, although the man depicted in the video had lost his job as a truck driver a month ago. 

“We arrested two suspects and we gave police information about another two suspects who they have arrested in Ermelo and Bethel,” he said.     

Spokesperson Mathe said the police had arrested two truck drivers in connection with the torching of trucks.          

“A multidisciplinary team assigned with investigating the attacks and burning of trucks have made their first arrests this morning in Mpumalanga. Two men aged 29 and 27 were arrested at their place of residence,” she said.

Police arrested the first suspect on a farm in Piet Retief with the assistance of a private security firm and the other in Ermelo. Both face charges of  malicious damage to property.         

National police commissioner General Fannie Masemola said the net was closing in on the perpetrators of the attacks.  

“Police are hot on the heels of more suspects which involves the ring leaders of these sporadic incidents of criminality. Either they hand themselves over or we fetch them ourselves,” he said.

Mathe said high density police operations were ongoing, including roadblocks, as police work to trace wanted suspects.  Earlier this week, Police Minister Bheki Cele earlier said 12 potential suspects had been identified.