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Extortion rackets becoming an epidemic in South Africa – Mavuso


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Extortion rackets becoming an epidemic in South Africa – Mavuso

28th November 2022

By: Donna Slater
Features Deputy Editor and Chief Photographer


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Large industries, from mining to construction, are being targeted by extortion rackets of epidemic proportions, as organised crime is fast emerging as the biggest threat to South Africa’s economy, says Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) CEO Busi Mavuso.

Such crime, she says, is now more damaging than bad policy or service delivery failures, with such activity undermining any efforts to build a country with a growing economy based on good policy and an effective State.


“Business must work out how best to respond . . . I urge any business that is subject to an extortion attempt to report it [to the Business Against Crime website],” says Mavuso.

Business Against Crime, a BLSA subsidiary, has long been making an important contribution to the fight against crime, she says, adding that the company’s Eyes and Ears (E2) programme gathers intelligence from partners across business and private security companies to support the police in detecting and investigating crime.


Reporting such instances of crime will better help the BLSA to understand how organised crime is evolving so that it can support the South African Police Service to tackle it.

Thus far, the BLSA has been able to track emerging threats to critical infrastructure and new industries being targeted. “We have a good relationship with the police and intelligence sharing with the National Operational Command Centre,” says Mavuso.

Nonetheless, the “explosion of extortion” efforts targeting legitimate businesses across the country requires additional and new measures, she notes. “The problem is that, while businesses can pay for security and we can share knowledge, we cannot compile dockets and prosecute.”

Fundamentally, Mavuso says, no one can protect businesses other than the State; however, the State’s capacity to do so is vastly weaker than it needs to be.

“We have to have an effective police force, and turning it around needs to be an urgent national priority. If we fail, we seriously risk descending into a mafia State with the formal sector squeezed out by criminals whose reach stretches deeply into our law enforcement structures,” she states.

The State’s capability and willingness to clamp down on organised crime needs to become the “new number one priority” for organised business, says Mavuso.

She notes that South Africa has been focused on the damage of State capture – facilitated by the destruction of the institutions of South Africa’s criminal justice system during that period – with focus to date being on resuscitating the National Prosecuting Authority.

“This was important work and it has made progress. The fact that there are now 29 cases in the courts related to State capture, ranging from the former leaderships of Transnet and Eskom, to the Guptas, is a good indicator that change is happening,” says Mavuso.

However, she points out that the Hawks has been “completely stripped” of its skilled leaders and replaced with “sycophants” to the State capture machine. “Too many of those are still at work in the organisation.”

While there have been some efforts to appoint strong leadership, including Hawks boss Godfrey Lebeya, Mavuso says the Hwaks is a large and complex organisation that needs to be systematically rebuilt.

According to author Jacques Pauw, the Hawks has more vacancies, with an alleged 2 780 positions, than currently-occupied posts.

“Recruiting top-quality investigators who can turn the tide against organised crime is difficult, but this is an area where business can contribute skills and support renewal.

“If we are to beat the systemic risk posed by organised crime, we need the Hawks’ crime intelligence and commercial crime units to be fully functional and effective. There simply is no alternative,” she says.

However, Mavuso says this is not something that business can do itself, and that the best that can be done is to support the police and its interaction with the wider criminal justice system to ensure it becomes effective.

“I will be working with my colleagues on ways we can rise to this new challenge. It is now mission critical for business in South Africa. I will be engaging with our public sector counterparts to determine how we can make a difference on this crucial issue,” she concludes.


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