Jakkie Cilliers, head of African futures and innovation at the Institute for Security Studies, said SA was a prime target for kidnappings given its relative wealth compared to other countries on the continent.
He said the rise in kidnappings reflected a decline in the criminal justice system and efficiency of intelligence services.
“For a number of years, foreign organised crime syndicates have been coming into SA to commit crimes, especially those such as kidnappings. With law enforcement deteriorating to such a degree, foreign criminal syndicates operates in SA with impunity,” he said.
Cilliers said it was well known that kidnapping syndicates used ransoms as a source of finance for other criminal networks.
“Extremist organisations are able to take root when there is a collapse or failure in governance as we see happening in northern Mozambique.
“Such rooting and linkages with violent criminal organisations is happening across southern Africa, including in SA. Three years ago I would say it was unlikely that extremism would find a footing in SA, but opportunities are being created by local governance failures, which have seen the creation of fertile ground for these kinds of organisations.”
He described the situation as highly concerning. “The absence of proper border security and policing failures allows these groups [kidnappers] to gain footholds to operate here.”
Private investigator Jack Brice said intelligence showed there was a definite link between kidnapping syndicates and foreign-based crime organisations. He said those behind the kidnappings were typically well-trained, heavily armed and highly organised.
“These crimes are definitely on the rise. There is a lot of money made through ransoms, which vary between R20m and R40m,” he said.
“The ransoms are used to fund the commission of other crimes, including the purchasing of weapons and organisations involved in extremism.”
Brice said those kidnapped were often wealthy foreign businessmen operating in SA.
“Kidnappings are not carried out by Mickey Mouse organisations. These groups do their homework, using their own extensive intelligence networks to scope out their targets often months before they have even arrived in SA.”