Tracker seeks to partner with SANDF in tackling vehicle smuggling along SA’s bleeding borders


Vehicle tracking company Tracker is looking to expand its partnership with the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) in pursuit of more secure South African borders, with a focus on recovering stolen vehicles and reducing related cross-border crimes.

Tracker believes that private-public partnerships involving the South African Police Service (SAPS) and SANDF will also address other types of crime. This is according to a presentation the company gave to Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) at the end of November.

Tracker has worked with the South African Police Service for 24 years and assisted with over 19 000 arrests and over 108 000 vehicle recoveries. The company has a lot of experience in vehicle recoveries, including along South Africa’s borders where criminals attempt to smuggle them out of the country. Through many different operations, firearms and contraband has also been recovered.

Tracker currently works with the SANDF but seeks to expand this partnership, taking a cooperative and coordinated approach.

Most vehicle recovery activities for Tracker takes place in Gauteng (56%), with Kwa-Zulu Natal (KZN) (19%) second and the Western Cape (9%) third. The Tracker presentation noted that stolen vehicles are leaving the country via Mozambique, Swaziland, Zimbabwe and Botswana. “Stolen vehicles rarely leave the country through conventional methods,” the company said. Vehicles may be transported on a truck and concealed with fresh produce or other methods. Vehicles may be stripped and re-packaged as parts for redistribution or reassembly in another country. Victims of robberies, according to Tracker, are often held hostage until perpetrators have crossed the border. Vehicles may be placed in containers and shipped. Some have been taken across the Limpopo River, dragged by livestock and although rendered useless, they are still used for parts.

In understanding why foreign criminal syndicates are stealing South African cars, Tracker used the example of purchasing a 4×4 car in Malawi. A new 4×4 in South Africa that costs R600 000 is double the price in Malawi. A used car website in Malawi, advertising a second hand 4×4 with South Africa specifications and a KZN service history, sells that sort of car for R95 000. Selling stolen South African vehicles in neighbouring countries results in big profits for thieves.

Data from Tracker shows that vehicle robbery is increasing, and is expected to reach close to 4 000 vehicle robberies per year in 2022, according to their statistics. To combat this, Tracker is seeking to expand its cooperation with the SANDF. The presentation to the JSCD noted that through training, in similar fashion to the training Tracker does with the SAPS and leveraging existing Tracker technology, Tracker could be a great partner to the SANDF in safeguarding South Africa’s borders.

The presentation ended with the highlight that, “technological expertise from the private sector paired with SAPS and SANDF resources act together as a force multiplier to tackle vehicle-related cross-border crime.”

Tracker also believes that private-public partnerships involving the SAPS and SANDF in collaborative initiatives to address vehicle-related crime will have an indirect positive effect of also addressing other types of crime.

Stolen vehicles, drugs, undocumented persons, stolen copper, stolen livestock, illicit goods and cigarettes are either entering or leaving the country at an alarming rate. Copper cable theft alone is estimated to cost the South African economy R5 to R7 billion a year, according to South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Safeguarding South Africa’s borders and protecting its territorial integrity is the responsibility of the SANDF, SAPS and the South African Revenue Service (SARS). Under Operation Corona, the responsibility of patrolling the borders falls on the SANDF, which is under-resourced and working with outdated systems. The SANDF recently tabled a recommendation to parliament for 22 companies to be deployed on Operation Corona duties instead of the 15 at present.