Fears grow about criminal networks seeking political office
Cape Town - Criminal networks operating in Western Cape communities have analysts, activists and researchers worried that they might enter the political space and influence the upcoming local government elections of political leaders, the appointment of school principals and the overall nomination of public representatives.
The South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco) and the SACP in the Western Cape said they had observed, with alarming concern, the growth of a nexus of underworld criminal networks comprising businesses, politicians and sections of the criminal justice cluster, whose activities involved the extortion and hijacking of development programmes in communities.
SACP provincial secretary Benson Ngqentsu said what was more worrying was that it included the capture of procurement processes in certain municipalities.
Sanco provincial chairperson Bongikhaya Qhama said that during a recent meeting it had with the SACP, it warned that if the networks were not confronted, they would enter the political space and influence the elections and nomination of public representatives.
Qhama said the two organisations would mobilise a wide range of forces and roll out mass action against the criminality.
Institute for Security Studies researcher Lizette Lancaster said the developments were of serious concern. The networks were expanding in many communities in the Western Cape and also in other provinces, among them Gauteng.
Lancaster said local leaders, government officials and the police needed to urgently prioritise the co-ordinated investigation and disruption of the networks.
"Crime intelligence plays an important role and the police leadership need to closely monitor their progress with these investigations, and the kingpins need to be targeted during these intelligence-lead investigations," she said.
Political analyst Ongama Mtimka said the nexus between criminal networks and emerging business people who worked with politicians to control developments and carve out spaces for distributing illicit products had been a key feature of societies in transition. At times, it posed a danger to building inclusive social institutions.
Mtimka said a feeling of being marginalised brought the groups together. They created a power bloc to help them counter bigger, often mainstream, players or other emerging competitors who did not use their modus operandi.
Ultimately, one might have a criminal network that dictated the distribution of everything in a targeted area, from political appointments to job opportunities and contracts.