The Global Organized Crime Index 2023 revealed that South Africa is one of the worst countries in the world regarding organised crime.

The index showed that organised crime is rising globally, with 83% of the world’s population living in conditions of high criminality.

South Africa has performed particularly poorly, with both criminality and resilience scores worsening over the past year.

South Africans now experience worse criminal activity than countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Lebanon.

It is also one of only three African countries in the high crime–high resilience category, along with Nigeria and Senegal.

Unlike the latter two, however, criminality and resilience have worsened in South Africa.

With a high criminality score of 7.18, the country is an undeniable criminality outlier within Southern Africa, tangibly bringing up the average criminality score for the region.

South Africa has experienced a decade-long increase in criminality, undermining democratic processes through organised corruption and violence for hire.

The country has several pervasive criminal markets heightened by the influence of criminal actors. Many are embedded in the state, supporting criminal networks that are highly interconnected.

South Africa is plagued by quasi-criminal style networks or syndicates with transnational connections that engage in various criminal activities such as drugs, fraud, stock theft and armed robberies.

The criminal economy is fuelled largely by networks with corrupt relationships. Organised criminal activities include drug trafficking and hits on armoured vehicles transporting cash.

There are also widespread poaching syndicates, robbery, cell phone theft, metal dealers and cable theft.

Other crimes, such as vehicle hijackings, house robberies and business robberies, and kidnapping for ransom or extortion, are also criminal activities carried out by such networks.

South Africa has a long history of corruption between state actors and criminal organisations, leading to widespread government and law enforcement mistrust.

Corruption is pervasive across different state departments, including senior levels within prosecution and prison services.

The political system has been accused of being a kleptocracy, damaging the image of the South African police and leading to a significant drop in trust from the public.

Mafia-style groups are well-armed, and their operations are associated with a high level of violence.

These groups typically emerge in geographically and topographically defined contexts before spreading more widely after achieving success.

While gangs are prominent in Cape Town and the Western Cape, they can also be found in pockets in Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay and Durban.

Different cost-benefit calculations are at play:

  • In the Western Cape, gangs tend to amplify their notoriety by cultivating a public image.
  • Johannesburg gangs avoid publicity to evade law enforcement attention and prevent disruptions to their operations.

The construction mafia has also engaged in violent disruptions of construction sites and extortion of protection fees from businesses.

Certain business forum groups have clear links to political players, with some accused of acting as surrogates for certain politicians.

Foreign criminal actors, particularly from West Africa, South America, China, Pakistan, Israel, and southern and eastern European nations, have a strong presence in South Africa.

Rather than controlling specific markets, these foreign actors play roles as ‘interfaces’, exerting moderate to substantial degrees of economic and financial power.

South Africa is also considered a haven for criminal mafias and bosses to launder money and establish companies for money laundering activities.

The largest foreign groups are involved in criminal activities like fraud, drug trafficking, firearm smuggling, extortion, kidnapping, money laundering, prostitution, illegal gambling, and tax evasion.

Private sector actors have also been involved in various illicit activities, including money laundering, bribery and misappropriation of state funds.

Politicians have used their positions to form corrupt relationships with both local and international private sector entities.

Through the appointment of supporters to critical criminal justice, revenue service and intelligence institutions, private entities have been allowed to exert illegitimate influence over the government and use public resources for personal gain.

Former executives and senior managers have been involved in complex fraud schemes for decades before being detected by authorities.

This article was first published by Daily Investor and republished with permission. Read the original here.

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