A hijacker speaks from a cell
“The couple was traumatised, we could see. We took the car and drove off. After three blocks my partner and I realised there was a baby in the back seat. I told my partner to take the car and I took the baby and drove [in the backup car] to the police station to leave it there.”
Vuvuzela spoke to a hijacker who is serving his sixth year of a 25-year sentence in a Johannesburg prison. He says he was dubbed by the media as the “Mastermind” and prefers not to be named. The Mastermind spoke to us about the hijacking business in South Africa and what it’s like holding a gun to a driver’s head.
He grew up in a township where his family owned a scrap yard and sold spare car parts. By 16 he started stealing cars and says he knows more about cars than anything else. After a while he ventured into stealing bigger cars and made a name for himself. He was good at starting any car – without its key. Later he got into hijacking because it was quick cash.
“There is a difference between hijacking and stealing,” he says, “When you steal a car you aren’t afraid of the car you[‘ve] stolen. When you jack a car, you take it when the owners are at hand. You are in power; there is this adrenaline that controls you.”
Hijacking has become a profession with people occupying specific positions. Finger men spot cars that are on order and after days of watching their target and taking in their routine, the operation is then carried out. Most hijackings are carried out by two to three people – who play specific roles of intimidator, driver, tracker system detector, watcher and drop off driver.
The Mastermind – who has lost count of how many people he has hijacked – says syndicates do not want Japanese-made cars. German luxury cars such as Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Volkswagen Golf 4, 5 and 6 and Polo Vivos are mostly on order. The bigger the car, the bigger it’s fetching price which can go up to R80 000 a car.
Once a car is taken, the hijacker “drives like a mad person to a particular spot” to find the tracker and throws it away. Cars are then sometimes dismantled and their parts go back to car dealers and then to its manufacturers where it is repolished for use in new cars. They are sold locally or taken across the border to be sold.
The Mastermind says women are not mostly targeted. He advises motorists to keep a distance from other cars, not to speak to strangers through your window, not to park in deserted areas and if in a hijacking situation not to make sudden moves.