In the latest Global Organized Crime Index, South Africa has been ranked seventh in the world for organized crime. This index, published on September 26, 2023, assesses the prevalence and impact of organized criminal networks in 193 countries.
The report indicates that South Africa is currently confronting various quasi-criminal networks and syndicates that engage in a range of illegal activities, including drug trafficking, armed robberies, and fraud. These networks often have international connections, making them transnational in nature.
South Africa’s criminality score in the 2023 index is 7.18 out of 10, a notable increase from its 2021 score of 6.63. This places South Africa as the seventh highest-ranking country for organized crime globally and the third in Africa. Myanmar holds the highest score at 8.15, followed by Colombia (7.75) and Mexico (7.57). In Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo (7.35) and Nigeria (7.28) rank higher than South Africa.
The report highlights that South Africa’s organized crime networks often operate with corrupt ties, deeply embedding the criminal economy within the country. This has resulted in a significant loss of trust in government and law enforcement.
The report further identifies various organized criminal activities prevalent in South Africa, such as drug trafficking, cash-in-transit heists, poaching syndicates, and robberies. Notably, mafia-style groups, characterized by their high levels of violence, are gaining prominence, particularly in major cities like Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Durban. These groups initially establish themselves in specific regions before expanding their operations.
The presence of foreign criminal actors, including those from West Africa, South America, China, Pakistan, Israel, and Southern and Eastern European nations, is notable in South Africa’s criminal markets, particularly major cities. Rather than controlling specific markets, these foreign actors act as intermediaries, exerting varying degrees of economic and financial influence.
The report also raises concerns about South Africa being a hub for criminal mafias and bosses to launder money and establish companies for illicit financial activities. The historical corruption between state actors and criminal organizations has eroded public trust in the government and law enforcement agencies.
The report’s findings reveal a high level of corruption within South Africa’s public sector, with maladministration, procurement corruption, and abuse of authority being common issues. Additionally, the report notes that the ruling party has used its parliamentary majority to block crucial legislative oversight investigations, protecting its members from corruption inquiries.
On a positive note, the report acknowledges that South Africa’s judicial system is generally independent. However, it highlights challenges such as shortages of judicial staff and limited financial resources, which affect defendants’ due process rights. The country’s prisons also face issues of overcrowding and inhumane conditions, leading to increased gang violence and abuse.
Furthermore, South Africa’s extensive coastline, numerous ports of entry, and multiple land border control points make it an attractive route for illicit trafficking. Criminal networks often exploit illegal crossings along the borders with Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and eSwatini to smuggle people and contraband destined for various international destinations.
Lastly, the report underscores the need for improved cyber threat detection and prevention in South Africa, particularly in light of recent cyber-attacks on critical infrastructure.