Motorists run gauntlet on highway

By Graeme Hosken
Crime Reporter

Gangs of armed robbers are attacking motorists on the R21 Highway - the
main road linking OR Tambo International Airport to Pretoria.

The gangs, which are also attacking construction workers upgrading the
highway, have left a trail of terror behind them over the past three months.

The gang's ambushes, which have included attacks on businessmen and a US
Aid agency employee, have left at least four motorists and a security
guard at a construction site seriously injured after they were shot by
the robbers.

The most recent attack took place last Tuesday night when a businessman
was shot in the legs as he was changing a flat tyre on his car.

The robbers, who number between eight and 20, operate between the
Tembisa Road Bridge and the N1/R21 interchange between 9pm and 4am, with
most of the attacks occurring near St George's Hotel.

The attacks are carried out with the robbers either lining rocks on the
highway or throwing debris off bridges into the path of oncoming cars.

They target motorists using the north-bound lanes.

While police have known about the attacks since September, they have
done little to warn the thousands of motorists who use the highway every
day of the dangers.

While police claim that they are conducting clandestine operations to
catch the robbers, they seem to be operating with impunity as there have
been no arrests.

Businessman Jannie Schoeman recently survived an attack when he was held
up near St George's Hotel.

He was returning home from Midrand along the Olifantsfontein Road when
he hit a pothole.

"As I stopped and got out to change the tyre, two men armed with knives
attacked and forced me into a field.

"They stole my watch, wallet and cellphone. When I tried to escape they
grabbed me and tied me up with barbed wire," he said, pointing to scars
on his wrists.

The men eventually let Schoeman go, threatening to kill him if he did
not reach the road within two minutes.

"I was terrified. I thought they were going to kill me," he said, adding
that the Lyttelton police had been useless in trying to solve his
attack, which had taken place in broad daylight.

He said that when he offered to take the detective investigating his
case to where he was attacked the policeman was not interested.

* *This article was originally published on page 3 of **Pretoria
News* <http://www.pretorianews.co.za/>* on November 19, 2009 *


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