Organized Crime has become an “existential threat” to South Africa

In South Africa, organized crime includes everything from the distribution of heroin and cocaine to the smuggling of people, rhino hunting, and the theft of metal from public utilities like the water, power, and transportation.

A rise in cash-in-transit robberies and vigilante killings are two more problems. With South Africa now having the most internet protocol addresses used for digital extortion in Africa, cybercrime is also on the rise. Platinum and gold are unlawfully mined, stolen, and sold.

Pipelines are targeted, and syndicates demand mining and construction firms sign contracts that they are paid for but fail to carry out.

According to an extensive 206-page report published by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, which cited government statistics, the murder rate today exceeds 40 per 100,000 residents, and over 10,000 persons were abducted for ransom in the most recent year evaluated.

“Organized crime is an existential threat to South Africa’s democratic institutions, economy and people. It often lies behind and connects numerous seemingly disparate criminal incidents we see occurring in South Africa every day.”

Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime

The Impact of the Zuma Years

Apartheid-era inequality created an environment that allowed organized crime to flourish in South Africa.

According to the Geneva-based organization’s assessment, published this week, the situation was exacerbated during the Zuma administration, when law enforcement agencies lost a large part of their investigative and enforcement capacity, and morale fell to an all-time low.

The misuse of political power by the Zuma administration allowed rampant criminality to develop and endanger the country’s economy, according to the long assessment by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime.

Key institutions in South Africa lacked the ability or capacity to combat organized crime due to political influence and interest. Patronage networks saw the destabilization of the basic idea of rule of law and granted underworld actors access to the highest levels of decision-making in the state.

“South Africa faces a complex, hybrid criminal threat. Having originated in highly constricted conditions under apartheid, in three decades organized crime has spread across the country and forged links across the world. Left unchecked, organized crime will continue to seriously impair South Africa’s reputation and development.”

Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime

Hope for a better future

The present administration claims at least R500 billion rand was stolen when Zuma was in power, for which Zuma has denied culpability. Budgets for public procurement were stolen, and state corruption became institutionalized.

If Cyril Ramaphosa, Zuma’s successor, is to keep his promise to repair the damage, he already has a full plate.

But if he wants to retain the African National Congress in office, preventing criminals from effectively controlling large portions of the economy could end up being his hardest problem.

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