Within the broader context of political unrest and the high rate of violent crime in South Africa, international kidnapping syndicates appear to be gaining a foothold in the country. Kidnapping for ransom has been fairly widespread in other African countries and terrorism hotspots internationally, forcing business travellers to take extra precautions when visiting high-risk territories. It appears South Africa is now on the radar.
Recently, the police ministry in South Africa made high-profile statements about syndicates that follow high net worth individuals - including foreign businessmen - from the main international airport in the country, OR Tambo International, and then rob them at gun point. As the police attempt to allay fears about the follow-home syndicates, the country’s biggest media house has warned about kidnapping cartels.
News 24, quoted well-known social activist Yusuf Abramjee as warning that foreign business people are being targeted for kidnap-for-ransom in South Africa. “While many of the criminals have been arrested, others continue to spring up, targeting largely Indian, Pakistani, Chinese, Bangladeshi, Zimbabwean and Mozambican nationals in South Africa.”
Leading protective and risk consulting firm Arcfyre Group’s CEO Jared Higgins says: “The reality is that businesses have to be increasingly vigilant.” Headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa, Arcfyre provides security and risk consulting services in many countries across multiple continents. “It is imperative for businesses to take risks seriously. They need to conduct thorough due diligence before they send their staff travelling. It is the responsibility of businesses to ensure that their employees are safe,” he says.
“It has been mandatory for businesses and NGOs to seek professional advice and services when travelling to countries in high-risk areas in some African countries and the Middle East for quite some time.
“The key is for employers to ensure that both they and their employees are educated on the risks and potential threats, and that these risks are mitigated as much as possible.”
Should travellers find themselves in a potentially dangerous situation, Higgins says they would need to be prepared with the correct training to deal with the situation. This could literally be life-saving.
Higgins says that in any country, including South Africa, local knowledge is invaluable in planning routes and areas to visit.
“Conducting a thorough risk assessment will inform which preventative measures to take, such as whether hiring protection on the ground is needed, identifying areas and routes to avoid, assessing the need for trained and vetted local drivers, to implementing a kidnapping and ransom policy developed by experts in security and risk mitigation.
“The obligation businesses have in ensuring the safety of their staff includes measures such as tracking employees’ whereabouts and sharing vital knowledge, information and resources as and when they become available.
“Reputable experts in the fields of protection, training and consulting do thorough research and have real-time intelligence which, coupled with extensive experience, equips them to make informed security decisions,” he says.