Elon Musk ordering extra security for his father, Errol, who still lives in South Africa is a great indicator for the increased organised crime activity in the country. In 2022, South Africa drew level with the mafia influence in Italy – which sounds great in a FIFA World Cup year, but isn’t because it’s crime and not soccer.

Mzansi’s streets are now meaner than Mexico, Somalia and Libya – just ask Andre de Ruyter and University of Fort Hare vice-chancellor Sakhela Buhlungu, who joined the increasing list of high-profile survivors of assassination attempts.

Like, we know crime is a major problem, but this Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime (GI-TOC) report says our drug and human trafficking, and money laundering are significantly impacting the country’s economy, society, and politics.

KwaZulu-Natal is the historic hotspot for political killings and even touches the Zulu royal family now. Prince Mbongiseni Milton Muntukaphiwana Zulu and his bodyguard were gunned down, and another person close to the newly minted King Misuzulu, Dr Dumisani Blasius Khumalo, was killed in his driveway shortly after attending the Reed Dance.

Kidnappings are also on the up, as evidenced by the abduction of the Moti Brothers in 2021.

Experts say that while kidnapping for ransom is a new phenomenon in South Africa, it has seen a marked increase since 2016. 

“South Africa’s criminal ecosystem is complex and evolving. It impacts the lives of millions, together with the country’s economic health, and its political and democratic integrity too”, says Mark Shaw, director at Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime.

Chad Thomas, an organised crime investigator at IRS Forensic Investigations, shared shaw’s sentiments. 

“One of the key factors that has contributed to the growth of organised crime in South Africa is the country’s high levels of poverty and inequality,” he explains. “These socio-economic conditions have created a breeding ground for criminal organisations to flourish, as they are able to exploit vulnerable individuals and communities and offer them a sense of belonging and financial stability.” 

Thomas cited State Capture and the seeming unaccountability at the very top of our country’s political and business leadership as major contributors to and environment where people believe that if those at the very top can get away with crimes, then so can they. 

“Despite attempts to hollow out the police, intelligence, Hawks and NPA by rogue government employees, politicians and gangsters; there is still a willingness to counter the ever-increasing problem of organised crime,” concludes Thomas. 

There are efforts being made to combat this wave of mafia activity. Public law enforcement is teaming up with investigators in the private sector and there’s a strengthening in international cooperation, and SA is also on the right legal path with tighter regulations to limit money laundering.

Like with many things in our country, there seems to be a plan, but citizens are encouraged to be more vigilant and take whatever private precautions they can.

Featured image: Maxim Hopman/Unsplash