A report by the City Press claims that kidnappings are increasing exponentially in South Africa – with syndicates earning over R1 billion last year.
An anonymous SAPS general told the City Press that these kidnappings were overwhelming the police and were threatening South Africa’s national security.
“The families of victims never report the crimes as they are threatened not to do so,” said the general.
“In most cases, families of victims simply choose to pay the ransom and never involve the police.”
Police working with syndicates
National police spokesperson Vishnu Naidoo also confirmed that several police officers have been arrested in connection with kidnappings.
“I can confirm, without a fear of contradiction, that a number of police officers have been arrested for colluding with kidnappers,” said Naidoo.
“But I cannot tell you the number, as I do not know it.”
The City Press claimed that the number of police officers arrested was “at least 14”.
Targeting wealthy locals and foreign nationals
The SAPS general said that wealthy South Africans and foreign nationals were being targeted by the syndicates – particularly those from Asia, as well as those from neighbouring countries.
People in South Africa allegedly arrange fraudulent documents for foreigners wanting to travel to the country, and once they’ve crossed the border, these foreigners are flagged by police.
“That is how they get kidnapped. The abductors contact their families in Asia, demanding a ransom for their release.”
Kidnappers frequently ask for over R1 million, said the general, and almost always want the ransom to be paid in Dubai via the Hawala banking system – an international remittance system that has allegedly been used to launder money and finance terrorism.
Another police officer told the City Press they believe the incidence of kidnappings will increase due to victims’ families being willing to pay the ransoms.
This officer was also worried that the perpetrators could have ties to terrorist organisations.
Insufficient police support
The anonymous general said the kidnappings were not being managed efficiently in part due to there only being five members in the police’s kidnapping unit.
“The capacity of the crime intelligence team is small and wholly insufficient to investigate such a big national threat,” said the general.
“Kidnappings are on the rise, but we are more reactive than proactive because we are always forced to deal with kidnappings that have already taken place.”
“There is a lack of investigation capacity and most of the cases are not going anywhere in court.”
Irregular SAPS tenders
This is not the first time SAPS has been accused of irregular dealings this year.
In January 2020, a report issued by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane found a longstanding tender between SAPS and vehicle-tracking company Tracker to be “improper”.
“The allegation that the agreements entered into between SAPS and Tracker results in Tracker improperly benefiting from state resources is substantiated,” Mkhwebane said.
However, Mkhebane later released a second statement clarifying that the investigation, findings, and remedial action was directed at SAPS alone, and that Tracker was not implicated in any wrongdoing.
“Any comment or finding which may create the impression that there was any impropriety on the part of Tracker is regretted,” said Mkhebane.
“Specifically, the suggestion … that Tracker has improperly benefited from the use of state resources is regretted.”