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The fast and the fuel-less

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The fast and the fuel-less

by Esther Lewis
25 Jun 2008
Peoples Post
Peoples Post

LOCK up your trucks, tractors and fuel pumps: you may become the victim of the latest crime trend.

The cost of fuel has almost doubled in a year. In Cape Town, petrol costs R9,72 per litre, and diesel will set you back even more.

These prices brought along desperate times, as well as new opportunities for criminals.

On Wednesday and Thursday, thieves made off with over 1 000 litres of diesel.

Wednesday night, 300 litres were stolen from three trucks and a bulldozer on a Philippi farm. On another farm, seven 20 litre containers of oil were swiped.

The following evening, another business in the Philippi farming area was targeted. The company was robbed of about 800 litres of diesel. Its diesel pump was also damaged, apparently in an attempt to get more fuel.

The press reported two weeks ago that drivers had filled up their tanks at service stations, only to speed off without paying for their petrol.

One reader told People's Post that he had been approached by two men in the street: he says they offered him petrol for R5 per litre.

"This has never happened in the past. We think the price of fuel is driving this whole thing," says Inspector Ettienne Conradie, Philippi police spokesperson.

He urged all farmers and businesses who use big trucks and who store fuel on their premises to take extra security measures to protect what is fast becoming a very valuable commodity.

Peter Morgan, chief executive officer of the Fuel Retailers' Association, says that everyone is feeling the pinch of price hikes, but this should not lead to this kind of crime.

"Times are tough for everyone. Those buying the fuel should go to jail, along with those stealing it. If nobody buys the stuff, there won't be a market for it."

Morgan says that if the government does not do something to stem soaring costs, 10% to 15% of all service station owners will have to close down their businesses before Christmas.

Because it is a heavily regulated industry, service station owners cannot push up their prices each time there are hikes - as with many other industries.

"This is a cash business. We have to pay for it before we can sell it," Morgan says.

Meanwhile, economists have predicted that the rocketing cost of petrol, diesel and paraffin may not ease off any time soon.

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