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Filling stations are still the safest place to shop, says Fuel Retailers Association

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Criminal incidents at filling stations across South Africa have gone viral, sending shockwaves among South Africans. However, these incidents should be viewed within the context of the overall high crime rate that is plaguing the country.

This perspective is shared by Reggie Sibiya, the chief executive officer of the Fuel Retailers Association, who told that filling stations often serve as havens for motorists who are being followed on the roads and find no police in sight.

Amid the widespread cases of unsuspecting customers being robbed of personal items including mobile phones at filling stations, South Africans earlier this month woke up to the shocking news of Kaizer Chiefs defender Luke Fleurs being fatally shot during a hijacking incident at a service station on 14th Avenue in Honeydew, Joburg.

On Friday, six men linked to the murder case appeared before the Roodepoort Magistrate’s Court where they were remanded to April 25.

Kaizer Chiefs defender Luke Fleurs was fatally shot during a hijacking incident in Honeydew, Joburg, before his stripped VW Golf 8 was traced to Soweto. Picture: Vehicle Trackers/X

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has identified the men as Ndumiso Moswane, Fernando Sive, Nhlakanipho Dlamini, Franky Xaba, Maredi Mphahlele, and Thembinkosi Hlomikhawu.

The six men, believed to be part of a syndicate, were swiftly traced and arrested in Slovoville, Soweto, after hijacking the soccer star at a filling station. Fleurs’s car, a Volkswagen Golf 8 GTI, was found stripped.

In the aftermath of the brutal murder, spoke to different analysts who highlighted that filling stations across South Africa have become a regular hunting ground for criminals.

A petrol station worker attending to a vehicle. File Picture

However, the Fuel Retailers Association’s Sibiya told that the safety of customers at filling stations is a priority and there are numerous measures in the sector to protect community members from daring criminals.

“Service stations are still the safest place to shop as we have 24-hour surveillance systems. Looking at number of crime and murder statistics in South Africa, the number of incidences in service stations must be looked at in context of the overall crime in South Africa. We have millions of motorists using service stations daily under the protection of surveillance systems in the background,” said Sibiya.

“Service stations are still perceived as a safety haven for someone being followed and (in instances where) there is no nearby police station to immediately run to. We are a deterrent to hijackings because of our 24-hour surveillance. However, this does not mean service stations are immune to all forms of crime and other social issues facing South Africans.”

Chief executive officer of the Fuel Retailers Association Reggie Sibiya said customer safety and security is a major priority for the industry. Picture: Supplied

Sibiya emphasised that crime and hijackings in South Africa are happening everywhere, and not just at service stations.

“Criminals who attack service stations are already coming with stolen vehicles carrying fake number plates. These stolen vehicles must fill up at a service station and when there are unsuspecting motorists, this presents itself as an opportunity rather than being always targeted,” he said.

To curb criminal activities at service stations, Sibiya mentioned that some sites now have number plate recognition systems linked to the SAPS. These systems help detect suspicious or stolen vehicles early by identifying cars with fake number plates as soon as they enter the facility.

The Fuel Retailers Association highlighted that even though ATM bombings have been on the increase in their facilities, the crime occurs across the entire retail spectrum including at shopping retailers/centres.

The aftermath of an ATM bombing incident. File Picture: Courtney Africa

Sibiya said as a stakeholder, his organisation receives the statistics in confidence.

“Due to increase on ATM bombings, most sites are moving these from inside to outside premises. In high crime areas including townships most sites are refusing to have ATMs on site to reduce the incidences. With regards to the success rate to access the cash in ATM explosives incidents is 32%. ATM deployers using dye-stain technology, which ruins the cash when tampered, have seen a decrease in financial losses,” said Sibiya.

He said the sector has also rolled out training of staff on health and safety issues in a bid to reduce “unnecessary” conflicts which may cause harm or killings of either the staff or customers.

All criminal incidents, according to Sibiya, are immediately reported via armed responses on site for a quick response.

He said all cases are eventually reported to South African Police Service, and like all other cases in the country, the matters are subjected to the capacity issues of the system.

The Fuel Retailers Association said it is working closely with the South African Police Service to curb crime at filling stations. File Picture: Boxer Ngwenya

“There are various industry safety and security forums all geared towards combating and reducing crime. Cash management and security systems have advanced in line with other major retailers both locally and globally as we continuously invest in safety and security systems,” said Sibiya.

“The security and safety of customers and staff is embedded within every Oil Company Franchise Agreement to ensure every retailer takes health, safety and security with utmost due care, and failure to implement these measures may result in (termination) of the franchise agreement.”

Last week, outspoken anti-crime activist and investigative television personality Yusuf Abramjee said the crime haunting filling stations across South Africa has been on the increase.

“Forecourts are also being targeted. We are seeing dramatic increase in ATM bombings also. Filing stations are seen as easy target,” he said.

Media personality and anti-crime activist Yusuf Abramjee. File Picture

“Although most have cameras, it’s not a deterrent to these gangs. Security needs to be beefed up. The use or additional measures including the use of technology needs to be considered,” said Abramjee, who presents Crime Watch on eTV and eNCA.

also spoke to renowned criminologist, Prof Kholofelo Rakubu, who highlighted that petrol stations were highly vulnerable due to the calibre of attractive assets that are found at the stations.

Renowned criminologist, Prof Kholofelo Rakubu, the Head of Department at Tshwane University of Technology’s recently merged Department of Law, Safety and Security Management. File Picture

“Due to high crime level in South Africa, each and every business is vulnerable and customers and staff members are highly vulnerable to victimisation. At least one violent crime is committed every day at a South African petrol station,” said Rakubu.

“To top it all, petrol attendants are amongst the most poorly paid employees in our formal economy. Petrol stations are highly vulnerable due to the calibre of attractive assets that are found at the stations.

“During robberies or attacks at the petrol stations, common targeted items include cash, money safes, customers’ cars, and cellphones, while ATMs are bombed. This has led to serious injuries and deaths of both customers, staff and armed response personnel,” she said.

Rakubu is the Head of Department at Tshwane University of Technology’s recently merged Department of Law, Safety and Security Management.

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