Over 3 000 kidnappings have occurred in South Africa in three months. Wahl Bartmann, CEO of Fidelity Services Group, is raising concerns about this ongoing wave. He underscores the necessity for vigilance and understanding the diverse profiles and motives of both victims and kidnappers.
Official police statistics reveal a disconcerting total of 3 641 kidnapping cases registered in South Africa during the first quarter of 2023 (April to June). These incidents are distributed across all nine provinces, with Gauteng leading in the reported cases, followed by KNZ and Mpumalanga. The Northern Cape and Free State reported the fewest cases.
The top five hotspots for kidnappings within Gauteng are Vosloorus, Thembisa, Midrand, Protea, and Orange Farm. In KZN, high-risk areas for kidnappings include Umlazi, Inanda, Durban Central, Pinetown, and Ntuzuma.
Bartmann highlights that combatting this type of crime necessitates a highly specialised approach, and his organisation has deployed a dedicated task team to address such cases. He dispels the misconception that kidnappings are solely about high-net-worth individuals held for multi-million-rand ransoms, emphasising that ordinary citizens are also at risk.
An alarming trend is “express kidnappings”, in which victims are hijacked while in their vehicles, taken to ATMs, forced to withdraw cash, and robbed of valuables before being left in isolated locations.
South Africa grapples with the pervasive issue of human trafficking, particularly the abduction of women and children, which Bartmann asserts is more widespread in quiet suburban areas than many residents realise.
Kidnapping cases involve various actors, including criminal organisations, political extremists, ransom kidnappers, and family members embroiled in disputes. These actors have diverse motives, ranging from financial gain, political agendas, territorial control, familial disputes, and psychological disorders.
To mitigate the risk of falling victim to kidnappers, Bartmann advises constant vigilance and the application of common-sense safety measures in everyday South African life:
- Avoid openly displaying expensive jewellery and valuables in public.
- Routinely vary your routines and travel routes to prevent predictability.
- Refrain from engaging with unfamiliar individuals.
- Maintain constant awareness of your surroundings when arriving at or leaving your home.
- Secure your residence, giving attention to perimeters with measures such as electric fencing, proper lighting, and CCTV systems.
- In the event of threats, take steps to attract attention.
Picture: X / SA Police Service
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