Heist syndicates using “mining explosives” to attack cash vans


Zodidi Mhlana 

JOHANNESBURG- Amidst a surge in cash-in-transit heists in South Africa, criminal syndicates behind the robberies were now using commercial explosives to attack cash vans.

This is according to Dr Hennie Lochner, from the University of South Africa (Unisa), and a former police detective on cash-in-transit who said that criminal gangs take between five to 15 months to plan their attacks. A spike in robberies has been seen, with over 159 robberies occurring since this year’s January.

“There’s an increase in the use of explosives during attacks. Look at the Boksburg heist where those two vans were blown up. The gangs are prepared to shoot anyone who stands in their way. These people are professional robbers, they sit on top in the hierarchy of criminals. Gang members are recruited because of their expertise and because of their previous cash-in-transit experience,” Dr Lochner said. In Gauteng, police have recovered R95 million from criminals since January this year.

The police said that material belonging to the South African Defence Force (SANDF) had been recovered from criminal suspects. It has been discovered that some of the explosives being used in the attack come from the mining industry.

Last Monday, three separate cash-in-transit heists occurred in Krugersdorp, King William’s Town in the Eastern Cape and eMalahleni in Mpumalanga. Suspects fled with an undisclosed amount of money during the Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga robberies.

Kalyani Pillay CEO at the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric) said: “The perpetrators are large syndicates of between 10 and 15 members involved in an attack. The perpetrators are in possession of commercial explosives as well as automatic and semi-automatic weapons. They also use luxury high-performance vehicles to assist in stopping the armoured vehicles and aiding their getaway. They also seem to be in possession of information to support their planning,” Pillay said.

Pillay said a rise in road attacks had been recorded in 2018 compared to last year.

“We are seeing a significant increase in ‘vehicle on the road’ (VOR) attacks. At this time last year, we had 19 VOR attacks. So far, there have been 62 VOR attacks,” Pillay said.

Dr Lochner said “corrupt police officials” were aiding and abetting some of these robberies.

Police Minister Bheki Cele at a media briefing last week said a police officer allegedly involved in the Boksburg heist was arrested for taking an R800,000 bribe from criminals.

Dr Lochner said that the closure of the specialised unit left the police without enough informers to assist in tackling the crime.

“The closing down of the specialised police unit like the murder and robbery unit, what happened to those people who worked there is that they left the South African Police Service. Some have been recruited by the security companies. The South African Police Service does not have informers. Recruiting informers take time. We don’t have intelligence,” he said.

Minister Cele announced that government would be deploying more police in hotspots areas.