S Africans motorists stealing petrol amid high fuel levies

June 13th, 2008 - 1:45 pm ICT by IANS  

By Fakir Hassen
Johannesburg, June 13 (IANS) Amid surging world fuel prices, South African motorists have resorted to what police here are calling a new type of crime - filling up tanks at huge costs and then speeding away without paying. This new phenomenon is rising countrywide, according to the Fuel Retailers Association (FRA), which highlighted several serious incidents in recent weeks. FRA chief executive Peter Morgan said there had been at least ten such incidents in the past month.

South African petrol pumps are always manned by petrol jockeys who comply with the requests of motorists stopping at the pumps, while the drivers usually pop into the convenience stores there.

One such pump jockey, Frans Makgobatlou, working at a BP filling station here, said a man had stopped and asked him to fill both the tank of his vehicle as well as four 25 litre empty cans in the boot of his car while he went into the store.

“On his return, I told him that his total bill for the petrol was 2,570 rands. He then asked me to bring him four cans of oil. When I returned with the oil, he had sped away,” said a shocked Makgobatlou.

Subsequent investigation of closed circuit television recordings showed that the car had no registration plates, but the driver was clearly identified from stepping to and from his vehicle. A second petrol station nearby confirmed that the same man in the same car had robbed it in the same way a month earlier.

In a separate incident, police arrested a fuel station owner and six employees in Witbank in Mpumalanga Province after they allegedly stole a diesel tanker containing 60,000 litres of the fuel form its parking bay.

A more serious incident in KwaZulu-Natal Province saw a petrol jockey being injured when a driver knocked him down as he raced away without paying for his fuel.

Wessel Strauss, chairman of the South African Petroleum Retailers Association, said there had also been an increase in cheques used to pay for fuel being dishonoured, with three such cas sin the past three days alone.

The South African government has also come under pressure, with trade union Solidarity claiming that the state pockets 23b rands in fuel taxes every year.

Trade union federation Cosatu wants to link the fuel crisis to planned rolling action next month, as it threatened closure of businesses and the loss of thousands of jobs.

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