Rise in copycat gangs who hijack and kidnap for quick money

Kidnappings have become “one of the most profitable crimes” in South Africa. Picture: Freepik.com/Rawpixel.com

Kidnappings have become “one of the most profitable crimes” in South Africa. Picture: Freepik.com/Rawpixel.com

Published Mar 16, 2024


Kidnappings have become “one of the most profitable crimes” in South Africa.

Despite breakthroughs by police and private investigators in arresting members of kidnapping syndicates, there has been a rise in copycat gangs and new gangs in recent months.

In Durban, two schoolgirls were lucky to escape after kidnappers tried to snatch them, in separate incidents, while walking home from school.

Last Monday, a nine-year-old girl from Havenside, in Chatsworth, was on her way home from Evergreen Primary School when two men in a blue Renault tried abducting her, metres away from her home.

According to police sources, the child pushed the attacker and escaped his grip, but the man managed to grab a cellphone from a relative, who was walking with the child. The girl’s family declined to comment as they were traumatised and are in fear since the attempted kidnapping.

Police are working with local security companies and the Community Policing Forum to monitor the area in the mornings and after school, to ensure the safety of children walking to and from school.

In another incident, a Sydenham father was grateful that his daughter escaped an attempted kidnapping, allegedly by three Pakistani nationals driving a silver grey Sudan.

He took to social media to thank a man and woman who pulled his daughter out of the vehicle and kept her safe until he arrived.

Shaheen Suleiman, owner of Magma Security and Investigations, said they had been involved in the arrest of the main suspects in a kidnapping syndicate operating in KZN.

But he said there had been a rise in copycat gangs, who hijacked people and kidnapped them for “quick” money.

“Kidnapping for ransom is happening, but in KZN it has dropped due to the arrests. We caught the syndicate (members) who had kidnapped business owners or high earning people, asking for ransom. These syndicates keep the victim for three or four days, and when the money is dropped off, they then release the victims unharmed,” he said.

Seven suspects from Johannesburg and KZN were arrested. They were South Africans, who targeted Indian businessmen and women.

They were arrested months after a ransom was paid for a high profile kidnapping, following surveillance on them.

They were found hiding in Johannesburg, while on the run from police. Suleiman said the gangs were known criminals and armed robbers, who found that it was easier to do a kidnapping, as it was more profitable than a robbery.

“When they plan the kidnapping, they know where the person's business is and where they live. The kidnapping usually happens on the victim’s way to work or after.

“They then take them to a location, which is usually a house, where they are tied and kept. It is only after about 10 to 12 hours that they will make contact with family members for ransom,” Suleiman added.

Victims, according to their reports to Suleiman, were only given water to drink to stay alive.

“The suspects don't give the victims any food, as they ‘don't care’ about the person, they just care about keeping them alive. Sometimes victims are just given chips and small snacks.

“The syndicate starts putting pressure on the victims to tell families to pay the ransom. They allow the victim to speak to the family at a certain stage, as proof of life.

“Families goes through torture and don’t know how to deal with issues like this,” he said.

According to Suleiman, the high end kidnappers know what they're doing, they don't take chances, and ask for ‘big’ money.

He said it was important, now that cases were increasing again, for people to ensure that they knew the whereabouts of loved ones at all times.

“Make sure cars have trackers, and trackers are working all the time, because if something happens, that is a starting point of an investigation.

“If a loved one has been kidnapped, a missing person report must be opened at the police station. All kidnappings are taken very seriously, and it's the mandate of the Hawks to investigate. If you suspect someone is a kidnapper, speak to the right policemen and give the information to them or myself, so we can start investigations,” he said.