Kidnappings continue at an alarming rate in South Africa. The CEO of Fidelity Services Group, Wahl Bartmann, warns the public not to be naïve about the profile of victims or kidnappers’ motives.
According SAPS statistics, 3 641 cases of kidnapping were registered in South Africa in the first quarter of 2023/2024 (April to June 2023).
Gauteng followed by KZN and Mpumalanga had the most kidnappings out of cases reported in all nine provinces.
The Northern Cape and Free State recorded the lowest number.
Gauteng’s top five hotspots are:
- and Orange Farm.
In KZN, the top five high-risk areas for kidnappings are:
- Durban Central,
- and Ntuzuma.
Bartmann says this kind of crime necessitates a highly specialist approach and is often handled specialist task teams.
He says when most people hear of a kidnapping, they immediately think net-worth businessperson being held for a ransom of millions.
“While this is indeed true, and SA has seen its fair share of these over the years, the ordinary man in the street is easily a target too,” Bartmann says.
An increasingly prevalent trend in recent times is “express kidnappings” where motorists are hijacked and driven in their own vehicle or another vehicle to an ATM and forced to withdraw cash.
They are then also robbed of valuables before being left at an isolated location.
Human trafficking, particularly the abduction of women and children, is a pervasive issue in South Africa.
“In fact, it is more prevalent in ‘quiet suburbia’ than many residents would like to acknowledge,” according to Bartmann.
He explains that the ‘clients’ in kidnapping cases are as diverse as the crime itself – they can be anyone from criminal organisations and political extremists to ransom kidnappers and family members embroiled in a dispute of some sort.
“Criminal organisations, such as drug cartels, terrorist organisations and criminal gangs, target people they can gain financially from, there’s a political reason or the deed will help them to exert control over a particular area. Political extremists may target government officials, diplomats or foreigners to advance their agendas or make demands.
“Kidnapping for ransom is simply criminals looking for financial gain by targeting wealthy individuals, businesspeople or tourists who are perceived to have the means to pay a significant ransom. In some cases, custody disputes can lead to the abduction of a child and in rare cases, an individual with a psychological disorder can engage in kidnapping for reasons not easily explained.”
To avoid falling victim to kidnappers, Bartmann says being vigilant around your personal safety is always imperative. Most of the same precautions you would take in everyday life in South Africa apply, as does common sense.
Here are 6 important tips:
- Don’t be flashy with expensive jewellery and other items in public.
- Vary your routines or periodically change travel routes.
- Don’t engage with strangers.
- Be aware of your surroundings at all times, especially when leaving and arriving home.
- Secure your home, particularly the perimeter with electric fencing, proper lighting and CCTV.
- If threatened, attract attention.
“While law enforcement agencies and private security experts, such as Fidelity Services Group, work to address and prevent kidnappings, by understanding these motives and taking appropriate measures to combat this criminal activity, each one of us has a responsibility towards our own personal safety. Vigilance is key,” says Bartman.
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