A report released by the Assassination Witness project reveals that KwaZulu-Natal has entrenched its status as South Africa’s biggest public slaughterhouse.
For much of the 90’s the province was the country’s prime political killing field. While political violence remains a major source of revenue for the country’s most prolific contract killers, it is the competitiveness of the taxi industry that keeps the province’s assassins in business these days.
The period under review in this report – titled The Rule of the Gun: Hits and Assassinations in South Africa – spans from 2000 until 2017. The research was conducted in partnership with the University of Cape Town.
KwaZulu-Natal accounts for 40 percent of South Africa’s contract killings during the period under review – that is 522 cases.
Gauteng, which is often loosely referred to as South Africa’s crime capital, follows in a very distant second, accounting for just 24 percent of contract killings in South Africa. The Western Cape, which has been plagued by gangsterism for the past two decades, only featured in 14 percent of the country’s contract killings.
The ease of access to illegal weapons in KZN cannot be ignored under the circumstances, especially in its most rural regions. What is also glaring about the report is that it exposes the extent to which the justice system, itself, is a target of organised crime.
Just this year, the slaughter of policemen at the Ngcobo Police Station in the Eastern Cape, highlighted just how vulnerable law enforcement had become in South Africa, and how easy it had become for organised crime to flourish.
Politicians called that police slaughter a national tragedy.
According to the report’s authors, the taxi industry provides a notable recruitment pool for hitmen. It also accounts for the bulk of hits (43 percent), followed by organised crime (22 percent) and political incidents (22 percent).
Prof Mark Shaw, Director of the Centre for Criminology at UCT and Director of GITOC provided more insights on the report’s findings.
“The data that has been collected for the report continues work that the GITOC and UCT have done on assassinations related to organised crime in South Africa. We feel it is an important way to monitor the nature, extent and violence of the country’s evolving criminal economy,” said Shaw.
“What is most disturbing is that there was a 36 percent increase in our recording of hits or assassinations to the end of 2017. That increase also took place across all categories, so it is important to note that it was not only confined to what is recorded under our category of ‘political’ hits, which are those cases that generally make the news. Increases in hits related to taxi conflicts for example have been particularly notable,” added Shaw.