A Comprehensive Guide to Safeguarding Against Hijackings in South Africa


May 9, 2024
Team Pineapple

The scourge of vehicle hijacking continues to wreak havoc on South Africans even in 2024. 

Although motorists have adopted numerous safety measures, such as having multiple tracking devices in their cars, parking in well-lit areas, and practising more vigilance than vigilantes, carjackers are also getting smarter.

Vigilance means parking in guarded areas and not a random street somewhere.

All of this might be familiar information. However, reminding motorists that all hope isn’t lost is worth repeating.

South Africans can still employ helpful methods to limit their risk of falling victim to hijacking. 

In this article, Pineapple aims to shed light on the importance of proactive measures, offering valuable insights and actionable advice to empower motorists in safeguarding their vehicles and ensuring their safety on the roads.

Understanding the Threat of Car Theft

Desperate times have called for desperate measures. 

As we mentioned earlier, hijackers are getting smarter, and their methods are quickly becoming more sophisticated. 

In an article by BusinessTech, Fidelity Services Group’s CEO Wahl Bartmann revealed that the latest hijacking trends (as of February 2024) have shown a rise in kidnappings in South Africa. 

Criminals are coercing victims to hand over their cash or banking details so the thieves can get away with an even bigger loot. 

"The hijackers drive around for hours, forcing the victim to go and [withdraw] as much money as they possibly can.," Bartmann said.

Another tactic is forcing their victims to reveal the location of their car’s tracking device(s) so they can get away and delay the reporting of the crime. 

Pineapple’s own Nompilo Mkwanazi, a Claims Team Manager, also shed some light on this latest trend*. 

*These insights are based on Nompilo’s experience as a claims agent.

"Most hijackers lack the technology to open or hotwire a car," she explained, "so they need you, the motorist, present to steal your keys physically. Then they'll drive around, searching for and attempting to disable the tracking device."

In other unsettling news, car theft seems to be on the rise once again.

While the 2023 year-on-year hijacking data showed an overall decrease, the 2024 numbers are starting on a worrisome note: According to a website called Anti-Hijacking And Policing Sa – High Risk Unit, Jan 2024 saw five times the hijackings of Jan 2023, while Feb 2024 had twice the hijackings of Jan 2023 in comparison.

Tracker also noted this uptick in vehicle-related crime. 

Through research, they found statistics for the July to December 2023 period, which revealed “an increase in the volume of vehicle crime during the last half of the year, with a peak in November.”

Tracker’s findings also revealed that business-owned vehicles are 56% more likely to fall victim to car crime than personal vehicles.

However, hijackers continue to thrive despite motorists' measures to protect themselves and their vehicles.

The Impact of Hijackings on Victims

Having your car forcefully taken from you isn’t just financially devastating; it comes with a bunch of other drawbacks.

The experience of violent confrontation or being threatened by armed assailants leaves lasting psychological scars. These could lead to suffering from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), which could manifest in heightened levels of fear, anxiety, and stress. 

Victims of hijackings are known to struggle with feelings of vulnerability, helplessness, and a loss of control over their safety.

Furthermore, the emotional aftermath of a hijacking can also result in depression or sleep disturbances. 

Flashbacks, nightmares, and hypervigilance are common symptoms experienced by hijacking survivors. Resuming normal daily activities or feeling safe in familiar environments after the fact can be challenging.

And sadly, this impact can even spread to a victim’s loved ones.

Witnessing someone dear to you endure such a traumatic event can bring on feelings of powerlessness and concern. This stressful period can cause further emotional strain and disrupt relationships.

No two people are the same, and this also goes for how we, as people, react to situations. 

For some, they can move past this harrowing experience relatively quickly. Unfortunately for others, this might not be the case.

Long-term anxieties can form, leading to behavioural changes like avoiding specific routes or locations, excessive vigilance while driving, or reluctance to use public transportation. 

Such anxieties can severely disrupt a person’s quality of life by affecting their ability to work, socialise, and engage in activities they once enjoyed.

The good news is that healing from this trauma is possible. 

The best place to start is by recognising and validating the psychological effects of hijacking, which is essential for promoting healing and resilience.

Common Hijacking Tactics

As noted in a previous Pineapple piece, aptly titled Hijacking Hotspots in the Cape, here are some popular techniques used by hijackers:

  1. The 'Follow Home' Plot. Hijackers will stalk you home from a public space, e.g. a shopping mall or petrol station, then strike as they wait for your gate to open or just after parking. Criminals also creep up from behind, wielding a weapon like a brick, while you’re stopped by a robot.

  1. The ‘Good Samaritan’ Tactic. Perpetrators lure victims by saying, "Excuse me, something's wrong with your tyre," then attack when you pull over to inspect the damage.

  1. The 'Blue Light' Ploy. Hijackers impersonate law enforcement officials, using vehicles with blue lights and sirens to get you to pull over. This tactic is particularly effective during the night or on quiet roads.

  1. The ‘Multiple Perpetrators’ Method. Some hijacking incidents often involve more than one perpetrator: one might approach the driver's side of the vehicle to distract or engage you, while another may come from the passenger side or rear to catch you off-guard. Or they might pull up directly in front or behind your car, keeping you from escaping. 

  1. The ‘Forced Off the Road’ Strategy. In some instances, hijackers use their vehicles to force a motorist off the road, especially in areas with less traffic.

Another tactic carjackers use is placing obstructions in the middle of the road in an effort to get motorists to slow down. That, and they might feign an injury, accident or other distressed act to get you to either slow down or exit your car.

So, what can South African drivers do in the face of danger? 

We’re glad you asked (you didn’t, but for the sake of this segue, we’ll pretend you did).

Proactive Measures for Motorists

We’d be lying if we said there was a way to prevent falling victim to hijacking or vehicle theft. The threat and associated risks are tremendous and entirely out of your hands.

Thankfully, something that is within your control is your level of vulnerability. 

Think of it this way: Risk = Threat x Vulnerability x Consequences

Where there are potential threats, you’ll automatically find yourself at risk. These are variables that aren’t within your control. However, minimising your vulnerability to threats will help reduce the overall risk.

So, to make a long story short, the best preventative strategy is to always be on your guard. 

But can you do this without feeling like you’re constantly living in fear? With the right mindset, of course, you can.

Almost every daily action requires a bit (or a lot) of planning. Whether it’s gearing up for a meeting at work or meal prepping for the week ahead, preparation plays a part in the situation's outcome.

Similarly, the more preparation you put into your driving route, the less likely you are to fall victim to unsavoury characters with sinister motives.

As a motorist, staying vigilant and aware of your surroundings requires you always to adopt a proactive mindset and remain attentive to your environment. The way to do this is by regularly checking rearview mirrors, observing vehicles in adjacent lanes, and noting any suspicious behaviour or unfamiliar individuals loitering nearby.

Additionally, limit your distractions and focus solely on the road ahead.

When driving at night, it's crucial to park in well-lit, populated areas to deter potential thieves and avoid secluded or poorly lit areas where visibility is limited. This can also include access or security controlled parking area that’ll provide your car with secure shelter.

Planning your route and avoiding driving on isolated roads can help minimise the risk of encountering criminal activity in high-risk areas or known crime hotspots. 

Also, familiarising yourself with local traffic laws and road conditions can provide a safer driving experience in unfamiliar areas.

If all of this information is simply too much to digest, let’s break it down step by step:

Pineapple’s Best Practice Measures for Safety on the Road

Here are some Pineapple-approved methods to ensure road safety: 

  • Be aware of your surroundings, especially when approaching or leaving your car.

  • Avoid driving in high-risk areas, especially during late hours or low visibility.

  • Install security measures such as alarm systems, immobilisers, and tracking devices to deter thieves and aid vehicle recovery.

  • Park in well-lit, populated areas, preferably secure parking lots or garages.

  • Keep your doors locked and windows closed while driving, and be cautious of strangers approaching your vehicle.

  • If you suspect another vehicle is following you, don't hesitate to drive to a busy, well-lit area or a police station for safety.

  • Be cautious of distractions or ploys hijackers use, such as staged accidents or requests for assistance.

  • Maintain a safe following distance from other vehicles to allow for manoeuvring in case of emergency.

  • Whether parked or while driving, avoid displaying valuables or notable signs of wealth that could attract unwanted attention.

Above all else, stay informed about hijacking trends and incidents in your area through local news sources or community alerts. If you suspect a perpetrator is following you, staying calm is essential. 

Easier said than done, right? 

Still, refrain from panicking and instead remain calm while assessing the situation. 

Try to vary your vehicle’s speed, change lanes, and make multiple turns to confirm your suspicions and create distance from the car behind. Slowing down and then speeding up (safely) establishes a driving pattern, which is not a regular driving habit; therefore, any vehicle that mimics this behaviour is highly suspicious.

Emergency Numbers That Can Help You In A Crisis

  • SAPS (South African Police Services): 10111, or contact your nearest police station.

  • *Some private health insurance providers also have medical emergency numbers (Netcare’s is 082 9111, while ER24 is available at 084 124).

  • You can call 112 from any mobile phone in South Africa. An operator will connect you to your network provider’s emergency call centre. The operator then puts you through the relevant emergency service (e.g., police, ambulance, fire, traffic police, sea rescue).

Ensure you keep emergency numbers like your security provider (if you have one) or your neighbours on hand.

Once you're sure another car is following yours, your next step is reaching a crowded, well-lit area or a designated safe zone. These locations include police stations, petrol garages, and shopping centres.

And if the worst-case scenario happens, and you fall victim to hijacking, your top priority should be safety, yours and any passengers you may be travelling with. 

Calmly hand over control of the vehicle, avoid sudden movements and refrain from engaging in aggressive behaviour. Try to keep eye contact to a minimum, but try to remember details about what the carjacker looks like.

Remember, the primary goal during a hijacking is not to place yourself in further danger. Possessions are replaceable, but your life is not!

And then, of course, there’s the matter of the car’s safety itself. 

For example, car security systems and tracking devices come in various forms to protect vehicles from theft and unauthorised access: 

  • Alarm systems are one of the most common security measures; they trigger loud alarms in case of suspicious activities. 

  • Immobilisers prevent the engine from starting without the correct key or electronic code, rendering the vehicle inoperable to unauthorised users. 

  • GPS (Global Positioning System) tracking devices offer real-time monitoring of the vehicle's location, enabling quick recovery in case of theft. 

  • Steering wheel locks provide a physical barrier against theft but can be defeated by determined thieves with specialised tools.

And while these methods aren’t 100% effective, they still do a reasonably decent job at making your car just a bit more challenging to steal.

Lastly, some tracking devices, like Tracker, usually have a panic button that clients can use during periods of distress.

Nompilo advised that should you notice you’re being followed or something suspicious is afoot, “Press it before [the hijackers] even approach you because once they’ve already approached you, it’s dangerous to do it while they’re watching.”

This goes back to what we said earlier: avoid making any sudden movements that might provoke the carjacker’s anger.

Insights from South African Insurance Companies

A startling discovery by MiWay Insurance found that over 70% of hijackings happen in a homeowner’s driveway! 

According to MiWay Insurance’s Executive Head: Claims and Procurement, Youlin Naidoo, “Our internal data further reveals that most hijackings take place within a five-kilometre radius [of the home], mainly between 6 pm and 9 pm, and that they rarely occur in the morning.” 

Nompilo echoed the above statement, sharing that most hijacking victims were either leaving their house, about to enter their vehicle or were in a shopping mall when they were accosted by car thieves.

The stories from clients go as follows, “It’s mostly ‘I was coming out of my house’, ‘[I was] getting into my car’ or ‘Parking outside/Opening my gate to get inside’ and even ‘I was getting out of the mall’”.

This means that vigilance isn’t simply required for driving in busy, populated areas but is necessary even in quieter residential locations. 

Hijackers capitalise on these vicinities because they appear less guarded than other locations, making them prime targets for opportunistic crimes.

Not to mention, residential areas offer ideal escape routes. Their proximity to major roadways or escape routes also facilitates quick getaways.

The above also explains why workplace hijackings aren’t as common. 

Nompilo said, “I think it’s because there’s security around buildings. So, [hijackers strike] when you’re coming out of malls, and also late at night when there’s not a lot of people or security around. But homes, most of the time.”

So, be wary of parking directly in your driveway–it’s harder to hit a moving target than a stationary one. 

MasterDrive’s managing director, Eugene Herbert, says, “Hijackers need you to be stationary, which is why you should never pull into your driveway until the gate is open.”

Instead, wait in the street and only drive in once your gate has opened. Furthermore, ensure your driveway is well-lit, especially at night.

Sadly, the threat of carjacking is made worse during load-shedding periods. This is because traffic volumes increase and visibility decreases, making you more vulnerable to becoming a hijacking victim. 

And while we’re on the topic of location, Tracker’s findings also showed that Gauteng is still the province with the highest volume of vehicle crime (61% of the total vehicle crime incidents), followed by KwaZulu-Natal (14%) and the Western Cape (9%). 

The same trend applies when examining business vehicle crime: Gauteng stands at 56%, KwaZulu-Natal at 14%, and the Western Cape at 13%.

To reiterate, while no safety measure is foolproof, there are ways and strategies to mitigate hijacking and theft risks by enhancing car security. 

For example, some insurance providers encourage drivers to take proactive measures like doubling up on tracking devices. 

Vehicle theft and hijacking claims have gotten so out of hand that insurers might suggest having more than one tracker in the car, depending on the vehicle's make and model, to mitigate the skyrocketing cost.

The recommendation is also to get the tracking devices from two separate companies because they use different technologies and systems. 

Because criminals have become experts at blocking the signals of specific tracking devices, having two with different technologies might help complicate their efforts.

Installing multiple tracking devices with different technologies, like GPS and GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications), can improve the chances of locating your vehicles during a hijacking.

On this, Nompilo said, “In instances where the vehicles were recovered, [it’s because] clients had more than one tracker installed.”

Other suggested methods include using a Faraday bag to prevent the cloning of keyless access signals. These help prevent unauthorised access to your car’s signal, reducing the risk of attacks by tech-savvy criminals.

The above methods and a good comprehensive insurance policy might provide added peace of mind and protection against the financial consequences of hijackings.

While we’re on the topic, and since you’re already here, why not begin with a quote with Pineapple? 

Our comprehensive coverage includes theft and hijacking protection, emergency accommodation, and car hire. So, while we can’t prevent your vehicle from getting stolen, we can help soften the blow with our policy benefits (an additional and affordable add-on).

Click here to get a quick quote now. It’s only 90 seconds.

As we’ve already established, combatting hijackings continues to be a tall order, given the evolving tactics used by carjackers and the rising sophistication of criminal networks.

As criminals continue to adapt their strategies to bypass security measures, it becomes essential for the police and communities to remain vigilant and proactive in deterring hijackings.

Targeted Vehicles and Brands

We can’t discuss hijackings without addressing the elephant in the room: not all cars are made equally; some models are more attractive to thieves than others. Given their likelihood of being stolen, these cars are classified as high-risk vehicles.

A vehicle’s high-risk classification depends on market demand, resale value, and ease of disposal.  

That said, here’s a list of some of South Africa’s most hijacked vehicles in 2023 (data by Statista):

  • Toyota
  • Volkswagen
  • Ford

These models are known for their durability, popularity, and high resale value. 

Nompilo explained, “Toyota is definitely the leading brand, in terms of theft, followed by VW.” 

And when prompted to explain further, she added, “It’s because of the vehicles’ parts. They’re extremely easy to sell, plus every Toyota model uses similar parts; so, you can use a Toyota Legend 45’s parts on a Toyota Quantum.”

These and other brands like Ford and Nissan are in high demand on the black market across the African continent. Thus, they continue to make an appearance on most people’s high-risk vehicles list.

Another thing to note about vehicle theft is that, in 2023, approximately 30% of all stolen and hijacked vehicles were taken across the border into neighbouring countries.

Models like the Corolla Cross and RAV4 are primarily taken across the border into neighbouring countries because they are well-equipped to handle rugged African terrain. 

In 2024, BusinessTech reported the following car makes and models as being the most targeted (in no particular order):

  1. Toyota Fortuner (GD6 and D4D)
  2. Toyota Hilux (GD6 and D4D)
  3. Toyota Corolla Cross
  4. Toyota RAV 4
  5. Volkswagen Polo (especially hatchbacks)
  6. Nissan NP200
  7. Ford Ranger (both double and single cabs)

Thieves favour these cars due to their widespread availability, sturdy build, and compatibility with criminal activities such as smuggling, resale, and illicit transportation.

Other findings have also shown that Fortuner and Hilux vehicles are mainly stolen for their engines. 

So, does this mean you shouldn’t buy any vehicles from the above mentioned list of manufacturers?

Definitely not. Instead, ensure you thoroughly research the dangers associated with your car of choice. 

You don’t want to find yourself in a state of shock when you realise your car may be a high-risk vehicle, or constantly on the receiving end of criminal attacks.

South African motorists driving these vehicles should exercise extreme caution and heightened vigilance. Try to implement additional security measures to mitigate the risk of falling victim to carjackings. 

Lastly, click here for that FREE, affordable car insurance quote with Pineapple.


South Africans, this is your loving yet urgent wake-up call. 

As motorists, we must remain informed about the security measures available to effectively deter potential threats while minimising the risk of falling victim to hijackings.

Securing your vehicle involves a layered plan of action combining awareness, vigilance, and proactive security measures.

While we’ve explored vital insights and recommendations for mitigating hijacking risks (e.g. staying vigilant, using car tracking systems, and prioritising personal safety during hijacking incidents), it’s up to you, dear reader, to apply these lessons in real life.

Implementing the strategies outlined in this article can significantly enhance your car’s security and protect you against hijacking attempts.

And if you take away nothing else from this piece, at least remember this: personal safety should always take precedence. 

If the unthinkable happens and you find yourself at the mercy of criminals after your car, the best thing to do is comply. Follow the hijackers' demands and avoid doing or saying anything that could potentially escalate the situation. 

Your life is priceless; therefore, you should treat it as a precious gift.

Stay informed, stay vigilant, and take proactive steps to safeguard yourself and your vehicle against hijackings.

Lastly, don't be a statistic. 


Join thousands of insured and secure South Africans who’ve chosen to protect their vehicle with a highly-rated and extremely affordable insurance provider: ✨Pineapple✨.

Protect your investment and loved ones, and drive confidently, knowing you're comprehensively covered. 

Get a quote right this very second and take the first step towards worry-free motoring.

Pineapple ensures financial protection in case of theft or other financially devastating perils.

Please Note: The information provided above is for informational purposes only; you should not construe any such information as legal or financial advice. 

Pineapple (FSP 48650) is underwritten by Old Mutual Alternative Risk Transfer Insure Limited, a licensed Non-Life Insurer and authorised FSP. T&Cs apply.

Team Pineapple

Team Pineapple comprises our company’s top talents, who are dedicated to creating clear, high-quality content on essential vehicle insurance topics. This diverse group, including actuaries, accountants, data scientists, and insurance professionals across South Africa, collaborates to produce enlightening and empowering articles.

Each piece is thoroughly researched, factually accurate, and rigorously reviewed to ensure quality.

*We say they’re the finest because we want them to keep writing for us!

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Please Note: The information provided above is for informational purposes only; you should not construe any such information as legal or financial advice.

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