Thirty-six Dutch tourists were robbed on their way from OR Tambo International Airport to a hotel in Johannesburg, and authorities are investigating the incident that the police minister described as embarrassing.
Police Minister Fikile Mbalula, who visited the Dutch tourists on Tuesday, condemned the robbery, saying he was “sorry and embarrassed” by what happened and views it as an attack on the tourism industry and the economy.
“A police-marked vehicle with one man dressed in police uniform and five others in civilian clothing stopped us,” one of the victims told Xinhua.
Soon after the driver pulled off the road, “the men jumped in the bus, demanded all our belongings,” the victim said, demanding anonymity. “We were afraid of being killed, so we gave the men all our possessions.”
Mbalula, the police minister, called for harsh punishments on those responsible.
“Tourism is part of our economic drivers and a provider of jobs for the youth,” he said. “We must work hard in protecting this industry.”
“Part of this is ensuring that our tourists not only feel safe but are safe in our country.”
He said a lot of work will be done to prevent and curb criminal activities at the airport.
Police Spokesperson Vishnu Naidoo confirmed to Xinhua that the robbery is being investigated, and that “a seasoned detective from our investigation unit has been tasked to carry out the job.”
Airport authorities are also investigating whether any workers there assist robbers who follow arriving travellers and mug them at their homes or other destinations.
In March this year, armed robbers, also using a marked police vehicle, took at least 1.5 million U.S. dollars in a heist at the airport, according to the police