Johannesburg - According to the 2023 Global Organised Crime Index, South Africa’s criminality score has steadily worsened over the past two years.
The index released this week ranked South Africa seventh in the world out of 193 countries and third in Africa plagued by Mafia-style criminal networks and organised crime syndicates.
Other African countries highlighted in the high-crime resilience category alongside South Africa were Nigeria and Senegal.
However, unlike the latter two, the report noted that both criminality and resilience scores had significantly worsened in South Africa.
According to the report, South Africa's criminality score stood at 7.18 out of 10, as compared to the 6.63 score it had in 2021.
Tax Justice SA founder Yusuf Abramjee warned that the report should serve as a wake-up call for legislators, law enforcement agencies, and anyone concerned with the future of the nation, as it exposed how the country was a global hot spot for organised crime.
“This report is a damning indictment of those responsible for upholding the rule of law in South Africa. Our nation has now earned the title of one of the most criminal and corrupt countries in the world.
“A lack of political will, coupled with corruption and incompetence at the highest level, has turned South Africa into a paradise for gangsters. Organised crime networks are impoverishing Mzansi and threatening the peace and security of citizens in a country that should be an economic powerhouse and a leader in social justice,” he said.
Abramjee further explained that it was worrying that the report had detailed how the country was now a magnet for illicit money from the rest of Africa as the advanced economy and sophisticated financial infrastructure made it a prime spot for foreign proceeds of crime on the continent.
“As the Gold Mafia investigation showed, transnational organised crime networks are exploiting sectors like South Africa’s rampant illicit cigarette market to amass vast fortunes at the expense of honest, hard-working citizens.”
He added: “Instead of concocting new legislation that will be ignored by professional criminals, our leaders should be enforcing current laws, locking up organised crime kingpins, and distributing their illegally captured wealth for the benefit of all.”
The latest index detailed how the recent statistics came against a background of decade-long increasing criminality, the erosion of critical infrastructure, and the undermining of democratic processes through organised corruption and violence for hire.
Despite the damning findings, the report did give a ray of hope in that the country also scored the highest in the southern Africa region in terms of resilience, driven by the efforts of non-state actors to resist organised crime, robust national policies and laws, and strong economic regulatory capacity.
These resilience building blocks, however, reportedly came under strain in 2022, which saw overall resilience fall.
The construction mafia was said to have cost the economy R17 billion per annum; infrastructure vandalism and arson R47bn; Eskom’s organised crime networks R12bn; kidnapping and extortion syndicates R146 million; and the illicit economy involving illegal drugs and guns cost R13.6bn.
In addition to that, wildlife criminal syndicates dealing in illegal abalone and rhino poaching reportedly cost the economy R1.2bn; R14bn was lost due to illegal mining networks often referred to as zama zamas; R30bn was lost due to tender corruption; and the tobacco and cigarettes mafia cost R20bn, with taxi-related crime being unquantified.