AN INSURANCE expert on Thursday warned Johannesburg motorists to be vigilant against vehicle crime and theft at shopping malls as the R5 billion Mall of Africa opened its doors to the public for the first time with a number of cars allegedly being stolen.
Lizette Erasmus, head of insurance expertise at IntegriSure, on Thursday said the criminal tendency of jamming car doors to prevent shoppers from locking their car had been a trend that had been reported at shopping centres nationwide over the years.
“Such events are susceptible to criminal activities, and this is when incidents of car jammings and theft occur. Recently, thousands of shoppers stood in a queue at one of the big retail stores and a couple of vehicles were reportedly stolen in the immediate surrounding area of the store,” Erasmus said of a previous incident.
There were allegations bandied about on social media Twitter that more than 15 cars had allegedly been stolen at the opening on Thursday of the Mall of Africa which has 7 000 parking bays.
According the Mall of Africa’s spokesperson, Vanessa Fourier, 98 860 people had walked through the doors of the mall by 5:30pm on Thursday.
Speaking on the phone on Thursday afternoon, Fourier denied that any cars were stolen in the car park of the mall.
“I have seen the reports and they are untrue. No vehicles were stolen in our property at all. We have the police on site and our parking is accessible. We have established that it was external, those people who parked their cars on open spaces and on the street. Our parking is access-controlled and we have CCTV cameras. Police are doing an investigation and will report back to us at 8pm tonight,” Fourier said.
When contacted for comment, South African Police Service in Midrand refused to comment, with Lieutenant Colonel David Mahloromela saying that a formal report would be issued later after operations had been completed.
Meanwhile, traffic volumes on the N1 highway leading to the mall and around the Waterfall City precinct were worse than normal on Thursday morning.
At midday, the Mall of Africa was forced to close its boom gates because of the heavy traffic congestion.
“Due to traffic congestion, we have closed the mall parking/booms, will reopen as soon as traffic subsides. Apologies for the inconvenience,” the mall said on its Twitter handle around 12pm.
An hour later, it tweeted again: “Kindly note that booms are open again, you may also make use of the flyover coming from Pretoria Main Road.”
The mall continued to urge people on social media to use alternative routes, saying “If you’re battling with traffic, please consider using the Bridal Veil Bridge over the N1”.
Situated in Waterfall City in Midrand, Mall of Africa lays claim to the title “the biggest retail facility in Africa”, with more than 300 stores occupying 131 000 square metres of retail space.
The mall’s developers expect it to attract at least 15 million people annually. – ANA