There is a reason why criminal syndicates prefer to operate in South Africa and this preference has served to expand the crime rates within the borders to uncontrollable levels. The South Africa justice system is worsening, and crime syndicates know that charges brought against them might never see the inside of a courtroom. The failing justice system is fraught with instability and backlog of charges that do not help to ease the situation.
Crime syndicates operating in South Africa are nothing new and they began to enter the country in the early 1980s as the world experienced a rapid expansion of international criminal activities. Planned crime by experienced networks considered the world as a global town in which to increase their operations. The syndicates expanded their activities and soon outstripped the ability of law enforcement agencies to contain them.
The communication revolution coupled with advanced technology facilitated the expansion of worldwide criminal activities. Political changes within countries provided openings for syndicates to expand and gain entry into different parts of the world. Government structures within South Africa provided ideal conditions for organized crime to escalate. The lack of law and order control remained a security threat and organized crime flourished into an international phenomenon.
While economic factors contributed to the expansion of syndicated crime, the Nigerian criminal organization can be traced back to the collapse of oil prices in the early 1980s, which forced many educated Nigerians to find alternative sources of income.
South Africa experienced international isolation during the 1980s, and political turmoil caused the apartheid government to spend vast amounts of money on the military rather than police officers. The continual border wars with neighboring countries raised more concerns than organized criminal activities at that time. Although criminal syndicates operated within the South African borders, it was not until the early 1990s that the crime syndicates began to significantly expand their criminal activities in South Africa.
Cross-border crime occurred, and criminal networks were ready to capitalize on the political transition of South Africa. Controlled sophisticated criminal structures increased in South Africa and, headed by educated masterminds, rose across the country. The infiltration of criminals also increased and with this the network of illegal activities increased tremendously. The police officers were unable to cope and lacked experience in combating the increase in crime.
Nigerian drug syndicates, South American drug cartels, Chinese triads, and Russian mafia are some of the most professional organized groups operating in South Africa and expanding their operations of corruption, drug peddling, murder and other horrendous crimes. This spiraling escalation of criminal elements dominates the underworld and has caused South African crime statistics to rise significantly.
South Africa is a favored destination for organized crime and the wheels of justice turn too slowly to adequately deal with the high volume of illegal and organized crime. The weak border controls, secondary airports and developed transportation system within South Africa is a prime target of rising crime. Organized groups seek the coveted resources of rhino horn and abalone that is obtainable through illegal channels.
The transformation of a new government opened a gateway for criminals to actively enter South Africa and setup organized networks. Today the criminal consortiums rule the dark side of South Africa and cause a major problem for government officials. Bribery and corruption have paved the way for the top dogs of criminal networks to continue operating without hindrance or interference from the justice system.
While there is a small risk of appearing before the South African courts, the criminals have access to easily obtained false passports and documents to enter or leave the country without difficulty. The setup of legitimate businesses to facilitate money laundering and other illegal activities is a technique often used by the criminal networks.
The lack of police control and ethical standards within the justice department are a hindrance to stopping criminal networks operating in South Africa. The excellent laws set in place to govern South African crime and cooperation with international police have not served to eliminate or reduce criminal activity in South Africa. The crime intelligence services have displayed a weakness and corruption is a focal point within the structures causing a loss of control of the criminal element.
Criminal kingpins often require support within the legal system in order to prosper, and corruption of government officials is often the first form of establishment. Officials within the judiciary and police services are often targeted first with bribery, corruption, and threats. The constitution is disrespected and the power to appoint and protect corrupt judges and police officials is often marred with corruption. Even if a police chief is removed, a replacement is often channeled to become part of the syndicated criminal networks.
The successful Scorpions or Directorate of Special Operations investigated and prosecuted organized crime and corruption but was disbanded in 2009 after conflict with the head of the South African police force at that time. The replacement of this effective force with a controlled institution powered by loyal syndicate members has done nothing to eliminate crime.
The power to silence and the domination over the judicial system has made South Africa a prime location for criminal syndicates to operate in. The increasing corruption charges are buried in procedures and laws implemented to hide the real statistics of crime within the borders of South Africa and thus corruption continues to rise as the ruthless criminals dominate.
Opinion by Laura Oneale