Cape Town - The Bangladeshi community in Cape Town said it was living in fear after several abductions of business owners and close family, including children, by an unidentified criminal syndicate.
The statement by the community comes after the abduction of Mitchells Plain business owner Akter Pradhan just before the weekend.
On Friday, 37-year-old Akter Pradhan was allegedly kidnapped by three unknown men. Mitchell’s Plain police have since begun searching for Pradhan and tracing the suspects involved.
Crime reporter Yusuf Abramjee shared a video of the incident on Twitter, showing a man being bundled into a car.
Police spokesperson Joseph Swartbooi said: “Mitchells Plain police are investigating a case of kidnapping and extortion. This is after the kidnapping of a Bangladeshi national who was driving on Wespoort Drive on Friday at around 6.50pm.
“Initial reports of the incident indicate that three unknown armed men stopped his vehicle and when the victim got out the suspects forced him into their vehicle and fled the scene in an undisclosed direction.”
Swartbooi said the unknown suspects were yet to be arrested.
“Anyone with information is urged to call Crime Stop on 08600 1011.”
Pradhan is the owner of Cheaper Chips Cash & Carry, a wholesale store in Mitchells Plain.
Civil society organisation Women and Children at Concern (WCC) said it was concerned that the kidnapping of foreign business owners was becoming a rising criminal trend that police were battling to bring under control.
WCC secretary Hafiz Mohammed said: “So far, there have been four kidnappings in Mitchells Plain alone in just one month. The community is scared because they don’t know when they might be taken next, and how much these guys will ransom their lives for.”
Speaking on behalf of Pradhan’s family, Mohammed said Akter was snatched just after jum’uah prayers, as he was moving from his store, presumably to his home in Rylands.
“We are not sure where he was headed, but he had just left his store in Mitchells Plain. His family are very worried and, of course, scared because these people tend to demand a lot of money and if (they do not receive it) they threaten to kill the person they took.”
While they have never confirmed assisting family members to pay ransom demands, police in Cape Town have investigated several cases in which prominent business owners or their family members were kidnapped.
Among them were Parow businessman Ismail Rajah, Shireen Essop, Shanawaaz Asghar, and now Akter Pradhan.
In the recently released crime statics, 237 people were kidnapped in the Western Cape between April and June 2022.
“I know Akter, as do many other persons within the Bangladeshi community, and we call for his safe return. I wish the police could do more to unmask the persons involved. Not only for the kidnappings, but also the robberies of foreign-owned businesses and stock deliveries.
“Recently, several cigarette deliveries have been robbed, not to mention the actual wholesale businesses. I think these criminals have figured out that they can make a lot of money by doing this,” Mohammed said.
Between the third and second weeks of August, two cigarette trucks were hijacked and stolen in Brooklyn and Rylands. Police say they are still investigating.
The Mitchells Plain Community Policing Forum has condemned Pradhan’s kidnapping and says it, like other similar incidents, indicate how crime in the local community has morphed into frequent car hijackings involving residents being held to ransom.
Mitchells Plain CPF Chairperson Norman Jantjies said: “This isn’t the first such incident that has occurred in Mitchells Plain. I am aware of a similar incident where another business owner – also a foreign national – was kidnapped.
“While we don’t know the motives behind these abductions, these things are normally associated with people wanting ransom money.
“We are worried that this is becoming a growing problem in our area, and while it only generally affects your regular residents, the danger is that now car hijackings are becoming more and more common, and the victims are no longer business owners, but our residents.”