Pretoria, South Africa – The Deputy Minister of Police, Mr. Cassel Mathale, led a crucial debate in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) focusing on combating protection fee syndicates and business extortion, including construction mafias. This debate engaged permanent delegates to the NCOP, some MECs, and councillors from the South African Local Government Association (SALGA).
According to parliament of South Africa, Mathale provided an overview of the organized crime landscape, noting that since August 2019, 766 cases of business extortion were reported. From April 2023 to September, 92 cases were investigated, leading to 43 arrests, primarily in Gauteng and the Western Cape. He emphasized the challenges faced due to witness intimidation and underscored the importance of arresting all involved in these crime networks, from runners to planners and benefactors.
The economic impact of such crimes was a key point of discussion. Representatives from various political parties, including the Democratic Alliance (DA), Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), and Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), acknowledged the significant effects on the economy and the livelihoods of the poor. They emphasized the need to strengthen law enforcement capabilities, including the police, to tackle this issue effectively.
Government’s Response to Extortion Syndicates
The government’s response to these crimes has been aggressive, with Mr. Mathale highlighting the SAPS’s strategy to respond to extortion. The national policing strategy aims to dismantle criminal syndicates, and additional crime prevention and combating resources have been allocated. The economic infrastructure task team, operational since June 2022, has played a pivotal role in tackling these crimes.
According to parliament of South Africa, The police are also improving their investigative capacity, with specialized teams focusing on extortion-related crimes. This includes organized crime investigators from detectives and forensic services of SAPS.
Collaboration and Multifaceted Approach for a Safer Society
Mr. Mathale stressed that combating crime is not solely the police’s responsibility; a collaborative effort involving communities and various stakeholders is essential. KwaZulu-Natal’s MEC for Economic Development, Tourism, and Environmental Affairs, Mr. Siboniso Duma, echoed this sentiment, calling for a multifaceted approach involving multiple agencies, including the Hawks, Crime Intelligence, the National Prosecuting Authority, and the South African Revenue Services.
Ms. Shahidabibi Shaik, Chairperson of the Select Committee on Security and Justice, emphasized the need for collaboration among different government levels to address these crimes effectively. She highlighted ongoing government investments in police infrastructure, technology for crime prevention, and new SAPS member enlistments. The Hawks have been instrumental in investigating illegal mining, while the Border Management Authority is tackling illegal migration and cross-border crimes.
Ms. Shaik concluded that economic development can only flourish in an environment where the rule of law is respected and upheld.