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How to spot a fake roadblock in South Africa

As criminals in South Africa become more desperate and brazen, they are increasingly looking for new and daring ways to steal cars, including posing as fake police officers and conducting unlawful roadblocks to catch motorists off guard.

It is therefore important to know what to look out for to avoid falling victim to these thugs.

According to security experts Trellidor, telltale signs of a fake roadblock include:

  • The officer’s badge looks fake
  • The roadblock is set up in an unusual spot during odd hours
  • Officers use unmarked cars with fake or covered-up number plates

If any one of these signals jumps out at you when a seemingly legitimate police official attempts to pull you over, there are several steps you can take that will not get you in trouble even if the roadblock is genuine.

These include calling 10111 and letting the operator know you are unsure about whether the roadblock is authentic and you will feel unsafe pulling over.

Thereafter, provide the operator with the officer’s vehicle registration number, if you can see it, to confirm whether the vehicle belongs to the police.

Alternatively, you can slow down, turn on your hazards, and use your arm to let the police know that you want to be followed.

Proceed by driving at 40km/h to the nearest police or petrol station where there are CCTV cameras and other people around, which should scare off any nefarious actors trying to do you harm.

Two types of legal roadblocks

There are two main types of roadblocks in South Africa where you are legally required to stop if an officer waves you down.

The first is an informal roadblock that is set up on major roadways and on/off-ramps. At these stops, officers may ask for your ID and driver’s licence to verify you have no outstanding fines and your vehicle is roadworthy, as well as check if your vehicle’s licence disc is expired.

However, they are not allowed to search your person or belongings without a warrant unless they have reasonable suspicion for doing so, for instance, when a person has been driving under the influence or may be in possession of equipment that is generally used for something like a house burglary.

The second type of roadside check is a K78 which is an official roadblock police officers can establish to search vehicles and, if necessary, their passengers, as well as seize illegal items without a warrant.

When stopped at one of these roadblocks, you are allowed to ask for a signed certificate by the provincial or national police commissioner to prove the authenticity thereof, said Trellidor.

There are a few instances that you can be arrested at a roadblock, such as refusing to take a breathalyser, as the police will have to detain you so that your blood can be tested.

However, you cannot be charged for unpaid fines unless a warrant has been issued against you for the fine. If a warrant has been issued, you are allowed to ask for a copy of the documentation.

If you believe your rights are being violated, or for an added layer of safety, you are allowed to record all your interactions with the authorities through photos and videos.

Should you believe a search of your car was illegal, you may launch an application with the police to declare the action unlawful and invalid. Unfortunately, though, this can only be done after said search.


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