Syndicated crime continues to challenge Southern Africa

crime_in_sa.jpgLast year a number of crime analysts predicted that the key challenges that would persist in Southern Africa during 2009 would include:

. Illegal human migration across borders;

. trafficking of narcotics;

. cigarette smuggling;

. corruption in procurement projects.

Indications to date are that such predictions were accurate. Firstly,
it is evident that cross-border human smuggling and human trafficking,
which have manifested themselves since the late 90s in the region, have
continued unabated.

South Africa continues to be a central destination for illegal migrants and victims of trafficking.

Anecdotal cases have recently emerged of criminal groups operating from
major cities such as Johannesburg, Pretoria and Port Elizabeth that are
engaged in smuggling young men and women into South Africa to seek work
or in transit to other countries such as the United Kingdom.

Zimbabwe is a regular source of migrants. It is well known that the
economic implosion has resulted in a massive exodus from Zimbabwe.

In many cases, while adults have been able to migrate from there, they have not been able to do so with their children.

Exploiting the difficulties that migrant parents encounter in seeking
to re-unite with their children, criminals have set themselves up in
the business of facilitating such re-unions.

The most common cases involve parents that have moved to the United Kingdom.

Against the payment of a fee, which ranges from R10 000 to R25 000,
criminals smuggle children into South Africa or Botswana. The plan is
to move them on to the United Kingdom as soon as an opportunity arises,
ostensibly to seek political asylum, but in fact to be re-united with
their parents.

The schemes utilise false travel documents obtained from the host countries.

Occasionally, it takes long for the migrant children to be moved from
South Africa and Botswana.  Botswana passports are particularly popular
with human smugglers transferring persons to the United Kingdom,
because holders do not require entry visas.

The smugglers include the costs of securing the passports of
convenience in the fee charged.   It has come to light that in the
intervening period, some have been subjected to various kinds of abuse,
including sexual abuse. In some cases, the criminal syndicates fail to
arrange the onward migration beyond the host country, resulting in much

In relatively fewer instances, migrant children end up being held in virtual bondage.

There is also evidence of continuing migration from Somalia into South
Africa, through Zambia and Mozambique. It is not clear whether any of
the migrants are victims of human trafficking. Passage through the
transit countries is largely secured through corrupt means.

Collaboration between the human smugglers and some officers within immigration departments has been observed in some studies.

As a further challenge, cigarette smuggling continues to be a problem in the region.

South Africa is a major market, as has been observed by the tobacco
industry. Routes lead into the country through Botswana, Namibia and

From the various interceptions by customs authorities, the cigarettes
appear to originate from China and Zimbabwe. For various reasons,
detection of cigarette smuggling tends to be low, and this activity is
set to continue in 2009.

Along with it, the trafficking of narcotics into and from South Africa
is a continuing challenge. Recent large interceptions in London (of
drugs emanating from South Africa) and the southern coast (of a ship
travelling from Argentina) highlight the enormity of the task of
detecting trafficking.

The London seizure revealed some of the current methods used to get
drugs out of the country into Europe on board passenger flights, using
airline crew. The trial of the suspects arrested to date should be

Finally, there are various imminent large-scale civil construction and
rehabilitation projects in the region. As has tended to be the case,
such projects attract grand schemes of corruption.

There are disturbing indications that projects to develop southern
Mozambique (Ponta du Ouro) and to enhance electricity generation at
Cabora Bassa might be afflicted by corruption. The authorities mandated
to combat corruption in that country will need to be vigilant.

*Charles Goredema, Head: Organised Crime and Money Laundering Programme, ISS Cape Town(Institute for Security Studies)

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