KZN, a haven for hitmen

Four stolen vehicles, rifles, guns and ammunition as well as a police cap were found during the execution of a search warrant at a house in Westville in Durban. Picture: SAPS

Four stolen vehicles, rifles, guns and ammunition as well as a police cap were found during the execution of a search warrant at a house in Westville in Durban. Picture: SAPS

Published Feb 19, 2023


Experts believe that the killing of well-known rapper Kiernan “AKA” and his friend (Tebello "Tibz" Motsoane), outside a Florida Road restaurant in Durban, only served to further entrench KwaZulu-Natal’s reputation as the country’s assassination capital.

Kim Thomas, an analyst with the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime, released a 2021 report titled Murder By Contract: Targeted killings in eastern and southern Africa, which showed KZN was consistently the home to the most contract killings between 2015 and 2020.

Political killings and turbulence in the local taxi industry, according to the report, were key contributors to KZN being labelled the country’s assassination capital.

There was more dubious honour for the province when Police Minister Bheki Cele released the latest crime statistics for the period October to December 2022 on Friday.

Once again, KZN topped the murder charts, accounting for 1 821 of the country’s 7 555 murders.

Lieutenant-General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi, KZN’s Police Commissioner, was quizzed about the deaths of Forbes and Motsoane, in a TV interview with Newzroom Africa, earlier this week.

He said the evidence they gathered thus far indicated that AKA’s killing was an assassination and Motsoane was at the wrong place at the wrong time.

About the multiple contract killings that occur in the province, Mkhwanazi said one of the aspects contributing to the scourge was the high unemployment figures.

“Last year we had a crime summit to get society and NGOs putting their heads together to find solutions to KZN’s crime problems, especially murders.

“People in KZN resolve conflict by killing each other,” he said.

Mkhwanazi said the number of youth who were unemployed and on the streets, made them more susceptible for contract killing recruitment.

“They need money to survive so they fall prey to those who encourage them to become contract killers,” he said.

Professor Nirmala Gopal from the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s criminology and forensic studies department said the province had a history of violence and violent patterns of behaviour.

“Some assume that this violence goes back to militant times and armies associated with historical figures. These armies were established on the basis of protecting their leader against any evil force.

“There is speculation that some of the violent behaviour has been mimicked intergenerationally.

“This is understandable within the context of socialisation. If we hypothetically accept this as our central argument, it would make sense for KZN to be regarded as a province with endemic violence,” she said.

Gopal said the national crime statistics confirmed the high levels of violence in KZN, which also implied that the province had a fertile supply of individuals who were uninhibited to undertake violent crimes.

She suggested that KZN had become a haven for hitmen because the province might be more tolerant than the other provinces when serving justice.

“KZN could also be a province more prone to defeating the ends of justice, so, it's easier to literally get away with murder,” Gopal said.

She said the phenomenon of hitmen being normalised in the country pointed to a broken justice system.

"We are getting closer to a total social breakdown in our province and country. Citizens feel far more unsafe now than they did 20 years ago. What an irony. We should be feeling safer with the maturing of our democracy,” Gopal said.