Kidnappings will continue to surge in SA until police corruption is dealt with, insists criminal experts

By Sameer Naik Time of article published Nov 20, 2021

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Johannesburg - Kidnappings will continue to surge in the country unless the South African Police Services (SAPS) roots out corruption within its own ranks.

Criminal experts are urging the SAPS to clean up and beef up its force following an escalation of kidnappings in the country.

Earlier this year, a senior official at the SAPS Kidnapping Task Team was taken to court after allegedly extorting money from a distraught family.

Colonel Thatia Moremi, commander of the Kidnapping Task Team based at Crime Intelligence (CI), was handed a J175 summons to appear in court for allegedly attempting to extort R40 000 from the family of a businessman kidnapped in the Johannesburg CBD in May.

Moremi allegedly told the family he would “speed up the investigation for the safe return of the victim” in exchange for a fee.

But national police spokesperson Vish Naidoo said the police weren’t simply operating on their own. “We have IPID and the watchdog. The Hawks and SAPS have an anti-corruption units. Why are these people not exposing this so-called corruption. It's very easy for people to just speak about people being corrupt.”

The Moti brothers. File image.

Naidoo added that Moremi was innocent until proven guilty.

“This commander is innocent until proven guilty. He wasn't arrested. He was given a J175 to come to court. He will testify to the contrary of the allegations that are being levelled against him.”

While Moremi faces charges, the four Moti brothers were kidnapped on their way to school in Polokwane on October 20.

It was reported that a R50 million ransom was paid for the boys’ safe return.

Meanwhile, several other people missing, presumed kidnapped including a Grade 5 pupil who was taken outside her school, EP Bauman Primary School in Mayfair, this week; a Mozambican national who was recently kidnapped on the East Rand; and, a 28-year-old Benoni religious leader who was kidnapped outside his father’s business.

Businessman Saleem Tayob was also kidnapped in Durban recently, and a Chinese national taken in Cape Town. Two nights ago, a Pakistani national was also kidnapped in Johannesburg.

And yesterday, the Gauteng Education Department said a Grade 12 learner from Sandringham High School survived a kidnapping attempt, as she walked to school near the Lyndhurst Primary School. The GDE said, a white Chevrolet sedan with four male occupants reportedly drove towards her and one armed man allegedly grabbed her.

But her loud screams alerted bystanders, which scared the four men off and they fled.

A staff member, who happened to pass the location where the incident took place, safely accompanied her to school. The matter was reported to the Sandringham police station and the teen is receiving trauma counselling.

Crime statistics, released yesterday, show an increase in kidnappings in the country, with Gauteng as the hotspot.

A shocking 2 000 cases were reported to the police between July and September this year. The majority of these were hijacking-related, followed by kidnappings which involved robbery and rape.

Out of a sample of 620 cases, 52 kidnapping cases were ransom-related and most occurred in Gauteng.

Seven kidnappings were as a result of human trafficking.

Anti-Crime Activist, Yusuf Abramjee, labelled the new statistics as “shocking”.

“These figures clearly show worrying increases. If police don’t get a handle on it, we are going to see more incidents,” said Abramjee.

He has urged police leadership to “act now.”

“While we have some good cops who are trying, others don’t have the skill and expertise to crack the kidnapping cases,” he said.

Abramjee said Moremi’s alleged extortion has also raised serious questions and concerns.

“There have been allegations for some time that some rotten investigators are allegedly working in cahoots with individuals from the security industry. It is claimed some are getting cash kickbacks. The Hawks should get to the bottom of this.”

Abramjee believes that corruption within the police force is one of the reasons why kidnapping continues to surge.

“I think it's a contributing factor to the kidnapping gangs getting away with it. Corrupt criminal elements within the police could be aiding and abetting some of these syndicates. The corruption within the task team, specifically the Moremi case, is very serious, and it’s important that the police get to the bottom of it. The mere fact that very few arrests have been made in these cases, says it all.”

Institute for Security Studies (ISS) crime and justice information hub manager Lizette Lancaster said the institution was aware of corruption in the police ranks.

“We know that the police have had serious problems with corruption in their own ranks,” said Lancaster.

“We’ve seen a steep decline in the number of disciplinary actions faced by police members on the ground, as well as a lack of accountability by police membership in many areas, so there are many police members that think they can get away with corrupt activities. Of course, most police members are not corrupt and are just trying to do their jobs.“

Kidnapping expert and private investigator Mike Bolhuis agrees that corruption within the SAPS is one of the reasons why kidnappings continue to soar.

“The problem with corruption is, it encourages criminals to expand, and crime begets crime. When a certain crime is doing well, the criminal can get away with it, others join in on that specific crime and it escalates.

“Also, once you know the authorities could also be on the take, and possibly involved with the crime, or can be bought off or bribed, it just adds more muscle to the criminal, and the criminal element becomes bigger and stronger.”

Bolhuis said an increase in corrupt police officers is encouraging for criminals.

“These criminals very seldom get caught, especially here where we have a lack of visible policing. This is the biggest deterrent you can put out to prevent crime. This is how you’ll be able to avoid most of your crime.”

Abramjee, meanwhile, urged President Cyril Ramaphosa to make kidnappings a priority crime.

“We need an effective and efficient task team headed up by someone very senior. Someone who is experienced, honest, dedicated, and efficient. We need investigators and people that have a clean record and they need to be properly screened to be part of the team.”

Lancaster agrees that kidnapping needs to be made a priority crime.

“Between 2011 and 2020 we've seen a 133% increase in the number of kidnappings in SA. In quarter one, and now quarter two we've already seen over 4 000 kidnappings and if the trend continues it will far surpass pre-Covid levels.

Naidoo added that one of the main reasons why the police’s success rates in kidnapping cases were so low was because many of the families of the victims “do not co-operate” with police.

“We have a formidable capacity and capability in the form of a team from various police units including crime intelligence; the Hawks, detectives and hostage negotiators to deal with kidnapping cases, but the families don't want to co-operate with us. One has to ask the question why. We need to know where that money is going so that we may prevent these cases from happening again.

“But we are really seriously concerned about the lack of co-operation by the families of victims in most cases. This hampers our work in a big way,” he said.

The Saturday Star

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