Police union applauds law enforcement agencies for fighting head-on against kidnappers

Published Jul 10, 2024


The SAPS have assured citizens that they have the necessary expertise and capabilities to intercept and take down syndicates involved in kidnappings where ransom demands are made.

This comes after the SAPS’s elite Special Task Force (STF) unit rescued two kidnapping victims at an informal settlement in Crystal Park, Ekurhuleni, on Monday.

A man aged 64 and another aged 34 were both kidnapped while driving along Putfontein Road in Crystal Park on Sunday.

The kidnappers immediately began demanding ransoms from their families.

The SAPS was notified and a team led by the STF was mobilised.

On Monday afternoon, the team pounced on the kidnappers and a shoot-out ensued. One kidnapper was shot and killed, one was wounded and taken to hospital and the other four were arrested and taken into police custody.

“The SAPS assures communities that may be victims of this type of crime, that it has the necessary expertise and capabilities to intercept and take down syndicates involved in kidnappings where ransom demands are made. Last week, six kidnappers were arrested and two businessmen were rescued,” said SAPS national spokesperson Brigadier Athlenda Mathe.

The two Crystal Park victims and the two Portuguese businessmen who were rescued last week in Soweto brought the number of law enforcement success to four in a matter of about eight days.

Unfortunately, there is no fresh information on businessman Ashraf Kaka, who was kidnapped outside the Helderkruin Mosque in the west of Johannesburg on Friday. Police are still investigating.

The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) welcomed the arrests of 64 suspected kidnappers by police over the past six months.

This is as the police have been waging a war against kidnappers who use various methods to obtain victims in exchange for ransom.

According to a Statistics SA report, as of the 2022/2023 financial year, the total number of kidnapping cases in South Africa reached 15 343. Gauteng had the highest incidences of kidnapping, with 7 818 reported, followed by KwaZulu-Natal with 3 081 cases of kidnapping in the same period.

Popcru’s statement comes after the “Cape Argus”, on Monday, reported that a R50 million ransom is being demanded for the return of an alleged gang boss who was allegedly kidnapped by a Colombian drug cartel last week after travelling to Gauteng.

The missing man, Peter Jaggers, allegedly has links to a vessel from which six supposed fishermen were rescued after it ran into trouble off Cape Point.

The publication also reported that the boat ran out of fuel and among the group rescued were one of his relatives, whose name is being withheld for safety reasons.

It is further alleged that Jagger’s wife and relatives, whose names are being withheld, were sent a voice message including a photograph of him from the kidnappers demanding the return of “something which belonged to them”.

“Hey, we no play, we no play, your husband is on his way to South America, you guys have 24 hours to return the stuff, or we will come after your families you know,” the man on the other side said in a South American accent.

“We are not playing. Colombia, Colombia (he then speaks in another language).

“We cartel we do not forgive you, hey don’t forget, time is running, you got 24 hours to give me my stuff back.”

The “Cape Argus” approached one of the men who had survived the incident at sea, but he refused to comment on the allegation.

Police spokesperson Joseph Swaartbooi said the case was registered at the Bishop Lavis police station on Friday.

The union said the latest arrests have brought the number of total arrests of suspected kidnappers to at least 250 over the past two years.

News reports suggest that in the last six months, 13 businessmen and six students who had been kidnapped for ransom have been rescued by a multidisciplinary team led by the SAPS anti-kidnapping task team.

“While we welcome these efforts, we also note the recent breakthrough by members of the SAPS who have recently arrested seven suspects at a homestead in Ekombe in KwaZulu-Natal after allegedly being found in possession of high-calibre firearms including an AK-47, a hunting rifle and three pistols with ammunition.

“We view these successes as a positive indication that these multidisciplinary teams consisting of SAPS counter-intelligence teams, visible policing and detectives are continuously improving their efforts towards ensuring well-coordinated and executed take-down operations that ensure victims’ lives are not compromised and are found alive,” the union said.

Popcru spokesperson Richard Mamabolo said in curbing these kidnappings and securing more arrests of perpetrators, the union believes that intelligence-led policing will be vital as it enhances prevention efforts, improves response and investigation, and supports victim recovery and protection.

“Additionally, it will play a critical role in disrupting organised crime networks and addressing the economic aspects of kidnappings. As kidnappings remain a significant threat, the adoption and effective implementation of associated strategies are crucial for ensuring public safety and national security. Law enforcement agencies must invest in the necessary technologies, training, and community partnerships to fully realise the benefits of intelligence-led policing in combating kidnappings,” he said.

Mamabolo said the changing nature of communities and the shifting characteristics of crime and violence that affect these communities require advanced policing strategies as old strategies that worked in the past are not always effective today.

Crime expert Chad Thomas, an organised-crime investigator from IRS Forensic Investigations, said it is disconcerting how prolific this type of crime has become and they believe that there are several copycat syndicates operating.

“The SAPS Crime Intelligence National Office have set up a dedicated multi-jurisdictional inter-agency task team led by Major-General Feroz Khan. They are making inroads into identifying and taking down criminal syndicates as was evidenced in recent cases,” said Thomas.

“The problem is that there are a limited number of people working on these cases and the problem is that this particular type of crime is growing on a daily basis. The state must ensure that units such as these that are showing a success are fully capacitated to tackle these criminal syndicates head-on.”

Thomas said specific groups have been targeted by various kidnapping syndicates.

“Kidnapping for ransom cases initially targeted the Muslim community. We are now seeing an uptake in businessmen from the Portuguese community being targeted. Other communities are also targeted, including people using online dating apps. The kidnappings reported where apps such as Grindr were used are generally what we term ‘express kidnappings’ where kidnappers don’t want to hold victims for too long and generally hold the victims while they empty out their bank accounts,” he said.

Thomas recommended that people load tracking apps onto their mobile devices and allow their families access to these apps.

The Star