SA is a hitman's paradise and the fight-back is all misses
Hit on Gupta-linked businessman shows up weaknesses in our crime intelligence system yet again
Experts say SA is an easy space for hitmen to work in, but underworld assassinations are also a difficult crime to police.
On Saturday night, Gupta-linked business associate Jagannath Arora was gunned down in Midrand, Johannesburg, in what is believed to have been a hit.
A recent spate of underworld hits point to long-standing weaknesses in both crime intelligence and the justice system, said Jackie Cilliers of the Institute for Security Studies.
“When it comes to weaknesses in terms of crime intelligence capabilities, we are blind,” he told Times Select. “We are blind because of a lack of informants who are able to feed police information needed to stop these crimes from happening.”
Unisa criminologist professor Anthony Minnaar said police seemed incapable of preventing assassinations. “We have seen it with the political killings in KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo. We have seen it in the Western Cape with lawyers being gunned down. We have seen it with businessmen and suspected mobsters in Gauteng,” said Minnaar.
“The only way to beat these kinds of crimes, which are all part of organised crime, is if you have a competent policing intelligence unit and a prosecution system which can successfully prosecute.”
But former serious and violent crimes special investigations unit detective Rudolph Zinn, a criminologist at Unisa, said it was extremely difficult to detect the operations of hitmen, “even if the police have good crime intelligence, informants and organised-crime detection capabilities”.
In the latest killing, Arora, 59, who was the chief executive of JIC Mining Services, was accosted in his car. JIC, a contractor at the Gupta-linked Optimum Coal, is a subsidiary of Tegeta Resources and Exploration, also owned by the Guptas. JIC is currently facing liquidation.
Police spokesperson Captain Kay Makhubela said multiple shots were fired. “All we know is that he was shot. We don’t know what weapon was used because there were no cartridges which were found on the scene.”
The killing follows a series of hits across the country on suspected international mobsters, lawyers, foreign businessmen and councillors, including: Limpopo ANC ward councillor Thabang Maupa, who was killed in November. He was outspoken on social media about the VBS scandal. No arrests have been made.
Defence lawyer Peter Mihalik, who was gunned down in Cape Town in October while dropping off his children at school. He was linked Cape Town businessman Nafiz Modack; three people have been arrested.
Serbian businessperson George Mihaljevic, who was gunned down in September by two men on motorbikes in Bedfordview. He had business dealings with convicted mobster Radovan Krejcir. No arrests have been made.
Serbian national and alleged mobster Darko Kulic, who was shot dead in a drive-by shooting in Randburg in July. He was linked to international drug trafficking. No arrests have been made.
Serbian national and alleged mobster, Milan “Miki” Djuricic, who was shot dead in a drive-by shooting in Randburg in May. He was wanted for killing Serbian warlord Zeljko “Arkan” Razatovic in 2000. No arrests have been made.
Pakistani businessman and alleged international kidnapping financier Majeed “Manjila” Khan, who was shot dead in traffic on the M1 highway in Johannesburg in April. No arrests have been made.
Cilliers said SA was paying the price of internal politics weakening its law enforcement agencies.
“Not only is it important policing units which have been weakened, but so too has the justice system, in particular the National Prosecuting Authority, which has effectively been captured. For a long time, it has been looking after particular interests and families instead of focusing properly on bringing crooks to book.”
Cilliers said fortunately, efforts were now being made to address these shortfalls, “although it will take years to undo the damage that has been done in weakening the criminal justice system”.
Minnaar said the killings called into question the state’s capabilities to properly fight organised crime.
“There has to be intelligence driven policing in SA to effectively deal with organised crime.
“These types of crimes, especially assassinations, are organised. They are deliberately planned. What we need to see is not only a resuscitation and proper funding of the SAPS informer network, but also see petty street crime being dealt with effectively so that detectives can be free to focus their attention on dealing with organised crime.”
But Zinn insisted it was difficult to know about a planned hit.
“The problem with being able to detect an assassination before it occurs in SA is that often these people operate in isolation, come from rural areas and have no strong links to organised-crime syndicates.
“There is also a fairly large number of people who will commit such crimes as murders, with the majority of the hitmen in SA once-off killers. They do it for money and not because they are linked to a grouping or mafia.”
Zinn said when he was still a detective he had investigated a case of a hitman who was ultimately linked to eight murders.
“When we arrested him it was only for one murder. At the time we had no idea of his involvement in the other murders. It was only after his arrest that we discovered that he was actually linked to seven other killings.
“The reason for this was while people knew of his operations, he had no links to gangs and lived in a rural area out of sight, operating under the radar.
“Contrary to what you see in the movies about hitmen being linked to gangs, our hitmen are often unknown individuals who are simply willing to commit these crimes for money.”
According to the NPA’s latest annual report, organised crime prosecution achieved a conviction rate of 93.8% with the number of convictions (346) exceeding the year-to-date expectations (269).
The report stated the NPA had increased its efforts to combat organised crime, with its Asset Forfeiture Unit seizing R308.3m in assets under the Prevention of Organised Crime Act in the last financial year.