Edition 1, 1995: Crime and Corruption - Growth Industries of the New South Africa


A recent report from within the South African Police Service (SAPS) warned that South Africa faces anarchy unless the escalating crime wave is effectively dealt with.

According to the SAPS Criminal Intelligence Division, more than 300 crime syndicates are operational in South Africa now. Drug cartels are also operating in South Africa on a large scale. These include five major international criminal organisations working either independently or in collaboration with one another. Their previous reluctance to become involved in South Africa has now been discarded because of the perceived collapse of SAPS morale, the declining overall efficiency of law enforcement, the ineffective judiciary, the declining national respect for law and order and the collapse of border controls in many parts of the country.

Cocaine, heroin and their derivatives are now readily available on the South African market. The laundering of drug money, particularly through casinos and gambling operations, but also through legitimate business interests, is rapidly expanding. Prostitution for high flying and high paying executives through escort agencies is common- place, in addition to discrete and lavish up-market brothels on remote farms in the Cape and the Eastern Transvaal. Some of these brothels are equipped with their own airstrips, helicopter pads and the latest electronic link-ups for businessmen.

Nigerian "clans" and West Indian groups are involved in the smuggling and distribution of heroin and cocaine in Gauteng and the Cape. The Italian and Sicilian Mafia are now also using South Africa as a major conduit for laundering money derived from drugs, fraud and extortion. Real and dummy companies have been established and exploited for these purposes. Expensive property deals have also been negotiated and many well known establishment corporations are dealing, in most cases quite unwittingly, with night clubs, restaurants, discotheques and other assorted enterprises which involve Mafia families.

The South American "Cali Cartel" based in the Colombian city of Cali comprising over a dozen families (allegedly responsible for 80% of the international cocaine market) is also exploring niche areas in South Africa. Their interest in South Africa stems from the fact that the United States market appears to be saturated and American law enforcement agencies are developing more effective strategies. Therefore, the cartel calculated that the time had come to explore new options in South and Southern Africa.

Interpol has identified links between the Sicilian agents of the La Cosa Nostra Mafia and elements of the Cali Cartel in Venezuela and Brazil. Underworld figures in Spain, France, Belgium and the Netherlands are also involved. Due to the fact that border controls in South Africa have all but collapsed in certain areas, it is possible that farms will be purchased in South Africa for the growing and harvesting of crops with a view to supplying the local and international drugs market.

Organised crime in the former Soviet Union under the guise of the Organizatsiya is also taking a keen interest in South Africa as a potential sanctuary and lucrative business venue. The CIA considers the Organizatsiya so powerful and its tentacles so far reaching that it is monitoring the activities of the group with close interest and concern - both in Russia and abroad. It is calculated that over 70% of Russia's private enterprises and commercial banks are directly or indirectly affected by the activities of the Organizatsiya and the Russian and East European economies are experiencing substantially inflated prices because of protection rackets and extortion.

The Organizatsiya (which consists mostly of ex-KGB and Communist Party officials) specialise in extortion, protection rackets, prostitution, gambling, drug production and smuggling. In recent months a number of brothels raided by the police in South Africa were discovered to have Russian and East European women working as call girls and prostitutes in circumstances amounting to slavery. Many of the girls could not speak English or Afrikaans and were impoverished and starving chattels of their unscrupulous pimps, for whom they were earning vast sums of money. In most of the cases the women have been unceremoniously deported while the real powers behind the scenes conveniently disappeared.

Certain British and American intelligence services are profoundly concerned over the interest shown by the Organizatsiya in nuclear weapon's components and fissionable materials for which there is a growing international market. Such concern is underscored by information from police and military intelligence services in Europe. The German police are reported to have discovered 30 cases of plutonium and related radioactive materials which were smuggled out of Russia and at least two countries in the Middle East were approached with a view to negotiating nuclear materials transfers. The collapse of security at Russian nuclear storage depots coupled with the financial desperation of disillusioned former and serving members of the Russian military have facilitated a disturbing trend in which it is possible that an "Operation Thunderball" scenario (of a criminal or terrorist organisation acquiring nuclear weapons for blackmail purposes) could develop.

The oldest and most sinister of the organised crime rings operating in South Africa are the Triads (Chinese secret societies) to be found in most of the urban centres. They comprise a major menace not only on account of their huge international membership, but also their tight organisation, rigid discipline, ruthless codes of secrecy and the extent to which they have been able to operate among Chinese exiles beyond the boundaries of China as an effective and sophisticated arm of the Chinese secret service.

In its early days the Triad society had many aliases which have been used to confuse the authorities. In one area it was known as the Heaven and Earth Society, in another as the Hung League. It was Buddhist in origin and has existed in some form or other since the early Seventeenth Century when it was organised from a monastery near Foochow.

For years it remained dormant, using oaths of absolute loyalty on pain of death to guarantee secrecy, and it had perhaps succeeded in stifling any premature revolts by transforming itself into a mutual aid society for its membership. In its use of secret signs, esoteric rites and passwords it could be compared with the Masonic movement in Europe. Like the Masonic movement it has retained its strength over the centuries.

It proved to be of special value to travellers who required to be helped and guided by fellow members when they moved to distant and strange places. In time the Triad society which was strongest in the south of China, extended its influence to other south-east Asian countries where there were Chinese inhabitants. Once it had established its dominance in other lands, the power of the Triad society became much greater and its intelligence service second to none. Reports were always being brought back by smugglers, pirates, seamen and merchants who either volunteered or were coerced into joining its ranks.

The word Triad, in the sense in which it is employed by this organisation, refers to its symbol of a triangle, the sides of which represent Heaven, Earth and Man living in harmony or communion with one another. While the Triads lack the pomposity and more ridiculous facets of Masonry and avoid the more blatant examples of Mafia gangster ritual, they indulge in the playing of recognition games through arranging cigarettes or matchsticks on a table, or tattoo marks, or a particular way of holding chopsticks and even the use of a certain number of fingers to grasp a glass while drinking.

In the mid 1970s, the Triads moved major interest groups from Hong Kong into Europe and began operating in a sophisticated manner competing, and in some cases collaborating, with the Mafia and local organised crime syndicates. In Britain alone it is calculated by the British Special Branch that 1 000 Chinese Triad members are engaged in criminal pursuits and espionage of one form or another.

The Triads' areas of particular interest include loan sharking, prostitution, extortion and drug smuggling. A number of Chinese, Thai and Filipino women have been brought into South Africa under false pretences to work in the massage parlours and as escorts in escort agencies (which are merely thinly disguised brothels).

The Fraud Squad at New Scotland Yard reckon that the counterfeiting of credit cards and associated fraud are costing the international banking community the equivalent of R5 250 million per annum. The Narcotics Squad at New Scotland Yard, working in collaboration with their counterparts in the Royal Hong Kong Police have identified three Honk Kong based Triad families as controlling 80% of all the heroin produced in the Golden Triangle of Burma, Laos and Thailand. It is likely that South Africa is serving as both a distribution point and destination of some of this.

From Europe and Hong Kong in the early 1990's they began spreading to South and Southern Africa, looking for new underworld markets but also developing a comprehensive political, social and economic intelligence capability to keep abreast of the political changes in South Africa, the demographic trends in the sub-continent and the emerging economic opportunities.

A Western intelligence service with a keen interest in Southern Africa is convinced that the Triads in South Africa have been tasked with monitoring the political developments in the country with a view to creating expanded and closer diplomatic and trading ties with Beijing. The Indian Intelligence Service goes so far as to suggest that the Triads are also monitoring the spread of AIDS in the African sub-continent. China is known to be expanding her surplus population of 1 billion plus into southern Russia and to be looking elsewhere for other vacant, or soon to be depopulated, regions. Illegal immigration from Hong Kong and China is largely dominated by the Triads. In Europe the situation has reached serious proportions. The Italian police believe that 30% of all Chinese resident in Italy are there illegally. Britain's National Crime Intelligence Service is concerned over the presence of at least 10 000 illegal Chinese immigrants.

Western intelligence services are convinced that the Triads are planning similar illegal immigration patterns for South Africa. They point out that on average individuals pay R130 000 to be smuggled across the frontiers of the target countries and that it can take ten years or longer to pay off the resulting debt. In the meantime wives and daughters earn their keep in brothels and escort agencies.

The Quasi-Triads operating in South Africa allocate pseudo-military ranks to their members. Committing murder qualifies one for the equivalent rank of Captain or Colonel and leaders are called Generals or Dragon Heads. Children are recruited to run errands, spy on potential and actual "clients" and gain access to areas and quarters which are difficult for or closed to adults. Triad members are not adverse to the use of guns, but the kitchen knife is the preferred weapon.

In Hong Kong there are 50 Triad gangs. The SA Police are uncertain as to the numbers of Triad gangs operating in the country but they believe that the threat is real and growing. Lucrative shops and businesses in South Africa have proven to be primary targets for acquisition and intimidation. Prostitution and the smuggling of ivory, rhino horn and perlemoen are also attractive pursuits for them.

Murder, firearms smuggling and theft, narcotics offences, drugs, fraud, extortion, credit card forgery, robbery, corruption and illegal immigration are all areas of Triad interest and involvement in South Africa. That the country is becoming increasingly attractive to the Triads is borne out by the fact that one of their top ranking leaders involved in Russian trade now resides in the Cape. Unless the SA Police effectively crush the threat posed by the Triads, South Africa could witness a large influx of gangs in 1997 when Hong Kong reverts back to Beijing.

The assassination of Professor Johan Heyns, former moderator of the NGK, may have been connected to his prominent condemnation of gambling, casinos and lotteries. The murder was a professional assassination which bore all the hallmarks of a Mafia type hit, or a foreign intelligence service killing. He was shot through the back of the head with a specially designed bullet which disintegrated on impact while sitting in his home on Guy Fawkes night playing with his grandchildren. His public campaign against gambling was a threat for organised crime which had already invested hundreds of millions in South Africa for both legitimate and illegitimate gambling activities.

There were over 1000 attacks on policemen in 1994 and 241 were murdered. These were calculated assassinations with 163 murdered in cold blood, off duty. Car hijackings on the PWV averaged between 30 and 50 per day, and increased country-wide from 4 569 to 7 067 in a single month. Police confiscated 11 403 illegal firearms. In the first 9 months of the year, 130 771 people were convicted of crimes ranging from murder and theft to assault with grievous bodily harm, while 215 765 were acquitted. In 1993 convictions outnumbered acquittals by three to one. However in 1994 acquittals outnumbered convictions almost two to one! More than 207 000 people are being sought by the SAPS in connection with crimes ranging from theft to murder.

There were more than 56 murders per 100 000 people during the first eight months of 1994 compared with an average of 18 in Russia and 9.8 in the USA. In KwaZulu/Natal the murder rate was 145 per 100 000. In the PWV area 60.24 per 100 000. Four out of five elderly people in central Johannesburg have been mugged, some of them as many as six times. Police report what they describe as an horrific surge in the numbers of child abuse cases and assaults on the elderly and infirm.

Mafia-like taxi associations are engaging in frequent gun battles from Cape Town to Pietersburg. At least 66 incidents of taxi violence in which 24 people were gunned down and 51 wounded, were reported in one month. Vehicle hijacking increased by 55% and the theft of freight laden trucks by 68%. Vehicle thefts increased sharply after the election and typical vehicle insurance premiums rose from R217 in 1988 to R1525 in 1994. White collar crime increased with the SAPS' Commercial Branch currently investigating 22 000 cases involving more than R600 million. What is truly extraordinary and deeply disturbing, reflecting on the massive collapse and decline of the nation's moral fabric, is that more than half of the fraud cases involve top management. And police are convinced that less than 30% of the swindles are actually reported.

According to the standard FBI time-clock calibration system: 1 murder takes place somewhere in South Africa every 29.12 minutes; a robbery every 5.42 minutes; an assault with grievous bodily harm every 3.38 minutes; a rape every 18.23 minutes; a house breaking every 1.53 minutes; a theft from a motor vehicle every 3 minutes and a theft of a motor vehicle every 5.39 minutes.

Major General Erica van Zyl of the Department of Correctional Services has warned that overcrowding in gaols is now so desperate that prison heads may well refuse to accept additional inmates. She said that prisons were over-populated by 100% and any hope of meaningful rehabilitation programmes successfully achieving their objectives amounted to an indulgence in fantasy.

Because of the collapse of law and order, people are taking the law into their own hands. A man who shot dead another at a Germiston hostel was attacked by hostel dwellers, severely beaten, and died after being soake with petrol and ignited. In Soshanguwe on the same day, a house was attacked with stones and petrol bombs by about 1 000 residents looking for the owner's son who had been charged with murdering a child and released on bail. The owner was severely beaten and his house was burnt down.

There have been innumerable warnings from both within the SAPS itself and from outside that the police force is literally disintegrating under impossible work loads, financial pressure, alcohol abuse and grave interpersonal stress leading to the failure of many marital relationships. In the first 8 months of 1994, over 142 policemen committed suicide (compared to 134 suicides for the whole of 1993, 106 in 1992 and 65 in 1991). Over 70% of the policemen who committed suicide last year were constables, the overwhelming majority black. The average rate for suicides in any society is 4 per 100 000 of the population. The figure for the SAPS is 66 per 100 000.

Coupled with under-funding and the "regular, systematic" increase in stress, the (145 000 member) SAPS can no longer be expected to maintain the preservation of law and order. Indeed, unless urgent remedial action is introduced by central and provincial governments, the police force may well fragment with some policemen refusing to report for duty, certain policemen joining the gangs with their weapons and others close to or teetering on the edge of emotional breaking-point.

It was this background of escalating crime and violence and disintegrating law enforcement that made the "Gun-Free South Africa Campaign" so hypocritical. Instead of dealing with the criminals the campaign focused on persuading law abiding citizens to surrender their only means of self defence. Yet 99% of all violent crimes involving firearms are committed with illegal weapons. Disarming the potential victims can only help the criminals. It is useless for the sheep to pass resolutions in favour of vegetarianism while the wolf remains of a different opinion!

Practical Steps to Deal with Crime

1. It is essential that you take practical steps to secure your home and protect your family. For practical guidelines, checklists and strategies for adequate protection and provision, write to UCA for a copy of "Security and Survival in Unstable Times". This 34 page booklet is available for R8.00 (postage included).

2. It is essential that the rights of law abiding citizens to obtain, carry and use firearms for self-defence be maintained. Speak up for these rights - in the press and to your representatives in Parliament. Resist any attempts to take away these rights. (Exodus 22:2; 1 Timothy 5:8; Luke 22:36; Judges 5:8; 1 Samuel 13:19-22).

3. Support, encourage, pray for, and where possible, assist your local police. Drop off baked cakes or biscuits at your local police station. Be practical, positive and creative in your support.

4. If possible get involved in your local neighbourhood watch, civil defence unit or join the reserve police (Nehemiah 4:13-14).

5. Encourage your chosen political party to press for a well funded police force and an effective judicial system - including: no bail for repeat offenders or violent criminals; and a return to Biblical principles of execution for all first degree murder, rape and kidnapping; and restitution for all theft of or damage to property (Exodus 21-22).

"Why do people commit crimes so readily? Because crime is not punished quickly enough." Ecclesiastes 8:11

Dr. Peter Hammond

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