Private security firm, Fidelity Services Group, has sounded the alarm over a spike in the country's kidnapping cases.
In a statement this week, Fidelity's Wahl Bartmann warned the public not to be naive when it comes to these incidents.
Referring to the crime statistics, Bartmann said over 3,000 kidnappings have been reported across the country in the past three months.
"According to SAPS statistics, 3,641cases of kidnapping were registered in South Africa in the first quarter of 2023/2024, which is between April to June 2023," he said.
Bartmann said while kidnappings were reported across the country, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, and Mpumalanga recorded the highest number of cases, while the Northern Cape and Free State recorded the lowest figures.
Gauteng's top five hotspots
KZN's top five hotspots
Mpumalanga’s top five hotspots
"This kind of crime necessitates a highly specialised approach and is handled within the group by a specialist task team. We have specialist tactical intervention and reinforcement teams to manage this high-risk criminal action. They work behind the scenes in often dangerous circumstances to ensure that customers and assets are kept safe," Bartmann said, adding that when most people hear of a kidnapping, they immediately think of a high net-worth businessperson being held for a ransom of millions.
He said that while this is true, the man on the street could be a target, too.
Bartmann explained that an increasingly prevalent trend in recent times is “express kidnappings,” where motorists are hijacked and driven in their own vehicle or another vehicle to an ATM and forced to withdraw cash. They are then also robbed of valuables before being left at an isolated location.
"Human trafficking, particularly the abduction of women and children, is a pervasive issue in South Africa. In fact, it is more prevalent in 'quiet suburbia' than many residents would like to acknowledge," he noted.
Commenting on those undertaking the kidnappings, Bartmann said these syndicates operate across fields, from criminal organisations and political extremists to those who kidnap for ransom and family members embroiled in a dispute of some sort.
"Criminal organisations, such as drug cartels, terrorist organisations, and criminal gangs, target people they can gain financially from, there’s a political reason or the deed will help them to exert control over a particular area. Political extremists may target government officials, diplomats, or foreigners to advance their agendas or make demands," he said.
Bartmann said kidnapping for ransom is simply criminals looking for financial gain by targeting wealthy individuals, businesspeople, or tourists who are perceived to have the means to pay a significant ransom.
He said that in some cases, custody disputes can lead to the abduction of a child, and in rare cases, an individual with a psychological disorder can engage in kidnapping for reasons not easily explained.
Six tips to remember to stay safe:
Don’t be flashy with expensive jewellery and other items in public,
Vary your routines or periodically change travel routes,
Don’t engage with strangers,
Be aware of your surroundings at all times, especially when leaving and arriving home,
Secure your home, particularly the perimeter, with electric fencing, proper lighting, and CCTV.
If threatened, attract attention.
Bartmann concludes that the motives behind kidnapping can be multifaceted and may vary, depending on the specific circumstances and the region where the crime occurs.
He added that while law enforcement agencies and private security experts work to address and prevent kidnappings, by understanding these motives and taking appropriate measures to combat this criminal activity, everyone has a responsibility towards their own personal safety.