Kidnappings on the rise in South Africa as public urged to be more vigilant

Zia, 15, Alaan, 13, Zayyad, 11, and Zidan, 6, who were kidnapped by seven gunmen last week. Picture: Supplied

Zia, 15, Alaan, 13, Zayyad, 11, and Zidan, 6, who were kidnapped by seven gunmen last week. Picture: Supplied

Published Oct 30, 2021


Johannesburg - Kidnappings have become big business in South Africa and kidnappers have become much more dangerous. This is the warning from Kidnapping Incident Manager at TSU International, Advocate Herman Bosman, who said everyone should be much more vigilant, not just on the roads but also when leaving and arriving at home and work.

It comes as no surprise that Gauteng leads the race where most kidnappings happen in SA followed by KZN and the Western Cape, The 2019/2020 Crime Statistics showed that Kempton Park (122) occupied the top spot for the most kidnappings reported at a police station in that period, followed by Tembisa (74), Inanda in KZN (74), Randfontein (67) and Johannesburg Central (66).

Bosman however warns that while there is value in these stats they don’t necessarily paint a clear picture of what’s actually happening. Crime Stats for 2019/2020 showed there were 930 kidnappings in Gauteng.

Carjackings were up by 13.3% to 18 162. Truck hijackings were up 1.7% to 1 202. In a surprise reveal, cash-in-transit heists were down 10.4 % to 164. Bosman said the reasons for people being kidnapped may vary but the most common factors include robbery, human trafficking, criminal vendetta, sexual offences and mob justice.

“People who are raped are also kidnapped. They were taken and detained against their will. You either have something they want, like money or information. Whether you make it back home alive depends on the reasons you were taken,” said Bosman.

Crime Hub Manager:Justice and Violence Prevention at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), Lizette Lancaster said few crimes strike fear into South Africans as much as the kidnapping of children. Video images of young children being grabbed by strangers feed into these concerns.

Social media has been abuzz over the kidnapping of the four Moti siblings in Limpopo. According to #MakeSASafe’s Yusuf Abramjee, there have been a number of kidnappings in recent days with many of those taken, still missing. And while the number of social media posts are overwhelming, Lancaster said the Gauteng police ‘noted with concern” the continued peddling of fake news relating to human trafficking and/or kidnapping of women and children; and are cautioning the public against the incessant promotion and distribution of such malicious untruths.’

“In South African law, kidnapping is regarded as the unlawful and intentional deprivation of a person’s freedom of movement or, if such a person is a child, the unlawful intentional deprivation of a parent of control over the child. This should not be confused with abduction. In South Africa, abduction is the unlawful and intentional removal of an unmarried minor from the control of his or her parents or guardian in order to enable someone to marry him or her or to have sexual intercourse with him or her. This is a crime against the legal guardian and not the minor, irrespective of consent provided,” said Lancaster.

Experts warn of the rise in kidnappings in South Africa. File image.

She added that the 2019/2020 Crime Stats highlight a substantial 133% increase in cases reported to the police since 2010/2011 – up from 2 839 that year to 6 632 in 2019/20.

Lancaster said the SAPS Crime Registrar’s office researches the circumstances behind kidnappings based on a random sample of dockets from different provinces. When the case file includes sufficient information, an analysis of the incidents is undertaken. For 2019/2020, a sample of 3 024 dockets were selected where a motive was clear.

Kidnapping for ransom and extortion combined contributed less than 5% of the sample. More than a quarter (27%) involved kidnapping with the intention to commit a sexual offence. This is a large and worrying proportion. While the SAPS’ data show that 45% of the total number of sexual offence complaints investigated are against children, there is no indication of the proportion that also involved kidnapping.

“The available data indicates that young children are most likely to be kidnapped by a legal guardian during custody disputes. Cases also occur when one guardian fails to ask permission to take a child from the other guardian,” she said.

ISS said kidnappings have been on the increase globally in most countries. Traditionally, 80% of kidnappings for ransom occurred in Latin America. In Africa, South Africa has experienced relatively low kidnapping rates compared to conflict-stricken countries such as Nigeria and Mozambique.

In SA there has been an increase in kidnappings of wealthy business people also those visiting the country from certain Asian and African countries because would-be kidnappers have information about their wealth and often their preference in transacting in cash. The ransoms are often extremely large because the family is believed to be willing to pay and able to pay such ransoms. They often also keep victims for some time to ensure desperation and compliance,” she said.

Bosman, who served in SAPS for just under 30 years, said kidnappings are well planned and cautions anyone against making rushed decisions when dealing with a kidnapping incident and to only use credited specialists equipped to deal with kidnappings.

“For many kidnappers, it’s about motive and opportunity. We all need to protect ourselves. Social media can be a very dangerous place. Keep your lifestyle private. Stay off your phone while you are on the road and be more alert,” he warned. While neither Lanacster nor Bosman wanted to be drawn in about ransom demands, Bosman said it could run into the millions.

The Saturday Star

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