Mpumalanga police have warned the community of a transport scam in Pienaar near Mbombela, where motorists lured under the pretence of being paid to transport herbs were robbed and their cars stripped.
According to police, armed men call unsuspecting bakkie owners pretending to need someone with a vehicle to transport traditional herbs to another area.
“When the victim responds positively to the hidden trap and proceeds to the place where he is directed to, he would be accosted at gunpoint, robbed or his vehicle stripped, then left tied up in the bushes,” provincial police spokesperson Brigadier Leonard Hlathi said.
Police issued the warning following two incidents in which victims were robbed.
“In the first incident on Monday, a 48-year-old man received a strange call from a person who sounded desperate requesting assistance to transport traditional herbs back home.”
The victim was promised payment for his services.
Pounced on by armed men
When he arrived to pick up the herbs, four men, two of whom were armed, pounced on him.
“They then tied him up with ropes, stripped his bakkie and abandoned him in the bushes. The victim later reported the matter to the police, where a case of armed robbery was registered,” Hlathi said.
In a similar incident, another victim was contacted on Thursday and asked to help collect traditional herbs from the bush at Zwelisha trust.
“The man agreed to avail his assistance after being told he would be paid for his services. He then made his way with his Hyundai bakkie to where he was directed but he, too, was attacked by four suspects, who pointed firearms and robbed [him] of his bakkie,” Hlathi said.
Community to the rescue
During the robbery, the suspects were cornered by the community, who came to the victim’s aid after witnessing the crime.
Hlathi said the community managed to subdue two of the men, while the other two managed to flee the scene.
“Police were alerted about the matter where the suspects were apprehended for armed robbery and are currently under police guard at the hospital after sustaining some injuries during the process of being subdued by the community.”
Mpumalanga police commissioner Lieutenant General Mondli Zuma welcomed the arrest of the men.
“We are delighted by the arrest of the suspects, and I applaud the community for the relentless role they played in the apprehension of the suspects, as well as informing police about the incident,” Zuma said.