Moti brothers kidnapped over greed
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It has been four days since Polokwane business mogul Nazim Moti’s four sons were snatched while they were en route to their private school Curro Heuwelkruin.
By yesterday, no ransom or extortion demand was received for Zidan, 6, Zayyad, 11, Alaan, 13, and Zia, 15, who were abducted by seven men, armed with R5 rifles and dressed in white overalls.
Moti and his wife, Shakira, declined to comment and referred queries to their lawyer, Philip Smit, who said the family was still reeling from the ongoing ordeal.
However, Smit said they would not entertain any media requests or interviews.
“We have been advised by the police to not engage as the investigation is in a sensitive phase and we cannot risk the safe return and wellbeing of the children,” he said.
Moti is the chief executive of Moti Auto, a Polokwane-based car dealership that has been operating for the past 25 years.
An investigator, who spoke on condition of anonymity, believed securing a hefty ransom was the motive for the kidnapping, but was unable to provide further details out of fear of tipping off the suspects.
The source confirmed that a large contingent of officers made up the operational team, including private security companies, to enable an extended search.
Some of the recent kidnappings that received widespread attention included the May 2019 abduction of businesswoman Sandra Munsamy, a daughter in the family-owned Crossmoor Transport.
A $10m ransom demand was made for Munsamy, but she was freed after a team of detectives tracked her to a house in Witbank, Mpumalanga, where she was held hostage.
The four men who were arrested allegedly belonged to an international syndicate targeting business people.
East London businessman Schalk van der Merwe, 32, was kidnapped in February from his workshop in Butterworth, he was also found by police.
A police operation netted two suspects, both aged 48, in Bloemfontein.
In July, a Durban businessman was allegedly kidnapped and kept hostage for seven days before his family received a R10m ransom demand.
The 60-year-old was leaving his business premises on Umgeni Road when four armed men forced him into their vehicle.
Limpopo police spokesperson Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo said there has never been communication or a demand from the kidnappers with regards to the Moti brothers.
“We haven’t found anything yet. We are unable to find the motive behind the kidnapping because there’s no arrest yet,” he said.
Lizette Lancaster, manager of the crime and justice information hub at the Institute for Security Studies said the rate at which kidnapping has proliferated over the past decade was “staggering and shocking”.
Lancaster revealed that there was a 130% increase in the number of kidnappings in the country between October 2011 and March 2020.
“Around 45% were associated with robberies like hijackings where people are driven to withdraw cash or forced to open safes.
“About 27% of kidnappings happen where the motive is sexual offences, while the figure for abductions for ransom or extortion was five percent,” she said.
Lancaster said it was not known for certain at this stage, but the Moti kidnappings fitted the last category.
“It seems to be the work of a highly organised group that had intimate knowledge of the family. What the motive is, remains unknown,” she said.
Lancaster said the number of kidnappings for the period April 2019 and March 2020 was 6 630, which reflected a 16% increase on the previous term.
“If broken down further, the daily average for kidnappings in South Africa was 18. What about the instances that are not reported?,” asked Lancaster.
She said it was heartening that the country had highly specialised police members dealing with this type of kidnapping, and that some top cops were assigned to the Moti matter, who were privy to all sorts of technology.
Professor Nirmala Gopal, from the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal’s criminology and forensic studies department, said the statistics were by any standards significantly high.
“The exponential increase should give the police sleepless nights. Forty percent of kidnappings linked to car-jacking demonstrates the country’s violent nature. Many of us overlook the essential notion that many crimes in South Africa might be traced back to violence,” Gopal said.
Professor Gopal believed the perpetrators of kidnapping were motivated by multiple reasons, which range from personal vendettas against family members or friends who may have slighted the perpetrator, knowingly or unknowingly.
“The extreme anger that the perpetrator probably experienced might manifest itself in the cruel, irrational kidnapping act.
“Then there are those kidnappers who are hired to abduct by some other individuals driven by greed.
“However, the result is still inhumane and instils terror in the victim. What the public should be aware of is that people within their circles might be potential kidnappers. This is not to cause panic, but rather to serve as a precautionary measure. Individuals should be circumspect about what they or people in their networks share about their personal lives on public platforms like Facebook,” warned Gopal.
A forensic consultant and criminologist, Paul O’Sullivan said the kidnapping syndicates were usually a mix of Pakistani and Mozambican nationals and sometimes dirty cops were on their payroll.
“This is not a new trend and it should be very worrying for the government, as it is the type of crime that negatively affects inward investment and tourism. The prevalence seems to be highest among members of the Indian community,” said O’Sullivan.
Marí Lategan, Curro executive of corporate services and spokesperson, said they were supporting both law enforcement and the family.
“Everyone from Curro Heuwelkruin and the rest of Curro is holding the boys and their family in their thoughts and prayers,” she said.