Kidnappings spike in the Eastern Cape: Business owners targeted

The Hawks said the highest ransom demanded so far is R20 million.

Eastern Cape police said there has been a spike in kidnappings for ransom in the province, with R20 million the highest demand so far.

According to police, business owners were targeted most often, with the majority of cases reported in the former Transkei areas. 

Speaking to The Citizen, Eastern Cape Hawks spokesperson Yolisa Mgolodela said they have received about 14 cases in the past few weeks. An additional case was reported on Thursday, but the victim is yet to be found.

It is suspected that kidnappings of foreign nationals occur because of business competition.

“They are in the country for businesses. If they see one of them having money for stock, that leads them to carry out the crime,” Mgolodela said.

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The cases include Pakistanis, Somalians and Ethiopians. However, South Africans were involved in some of the cases, she said.

A task team has since been assigned to look into the cases, and arrests have been made as investigations continue.

Hotspot areas include Mthatha, Tsomo, Namakwe and Cala, with a few cases also reported in East London and King William’s Town.

“The highest [ransom] ever demanded was R20 million. So far, between R16,000 and R800,000 has been paid to kidnappers,” said Mgolodela.

Hawks suspect kingpins are behind the kidnappings.

“If we arrest a kingpin it means that we have a breakthrough. If we do have a mastermind then it means the crime is controllable,” added Mgolodela.

The kidnappers rarely resort to murder as the sole motive for the suspects is to get money.

Mgolodela added that families sometimes stand in the way of justice. Instead of reporting the kidnapping to the police, they panic and pay the money to have their loved ones returned.

“If ever the police are involved there is a mechanism where they wouldn’t pay those big amounts,” Mgolodela said.

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