This type of crime has quadrupled in South Africa – and everyone is at risk

 ·7 Mar 2024

Experts have warned South Africans that cases of kidnappings have skyrocketed by 260% in the country over a decade – including those for ransom – and Gauteng is a hotspot province.

Speaking to Newzroom Afrika, the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) noted cases of kidnappings reported to the police in South Africa have almost quadrupled (260%) over the last decade.

Additionally, while kidnapping for ransom makes up only 5% of the cases, it still works out to around two people being kidnapped for ransom per day in the country.

These numbers are unsurprising considering the South African Police Service’s (SAPS) latest crime statistics for the third quarter of 2023 (October to December 2023).

The report showed that kidnappings have increased by 11% year-on-year to 4,577 cases over the period – working out to roughly 51 kidnappings a day in South Africa.

The report also noted that the main reasons for these kidnappings are ransom, human tracking, and extortion.

Ransom-demanded kidnappings increased by 7.8% year-on-year in the third quarter of 2023.

“What’s worse is there are likely many more that have not been reported to the police in fear of retaliation from the kidnappers,” said ISS project manager Lizette Lancaster.

Types of people targetted

Looking at the types of people that are most vulnerable to kidnappings in South Africa, Police Minister Bheki Cele warned at the end of last year that criminal syndicates are heavily targeting wealthy business people – as well as university students.

In a public briefing note published in September, Cele noted the increase in cases, highlighting that these crimes are being committed by kidnapping syndicates targetting selected individuals for means of ransom.

After several arrests, the SAPS noted that these syndicates were targetting business people by luring them in with fake tender proposals.

The SAPS further noted that the suspects, who were dressed in police uniforms, were found holding the victims hostage and demanding an amount of R300,000.

Despite this trend of specific targets in South Africa, CEO of Fidelity Services Group Wahl Bartmann said that the public should not be naïve about the profile of victims or kidnappers’ motivations.

He stressed that “the ordinary man in the street” is a target for criminals too.

“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,” Bartmann said.

Thriving in Gauteng

According to the SAPS’ data, Gauteng is by far the main hotspot province for kidnappings in South Africa, according to 2,367 (51.7%) of all cases reported in Q3 2023, showing an increase of 19.9% year-on-year.

The only other provinces to record higher increases in reported kidnappings are the North West (29.6%) and the Free State (26.5%) – however, they only accounted for 416 kidnappings combined.

Additionally, Gauteng is home to 23 (77%) of the 30 kidnapping hotspot areas in South Africa.

The top five hotspot areas are:

  1. Moroka – Johannesburg
  2. Loate – Tshwane
  3. Orange Farms – Sedibeng
  4. Tembisa – Ekurhuleni
  5. Umlazi – eThekwini

Read: Warning for households that employ domestic workers in South Africa

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