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To reduce kidnappings, South Africa’s police must tackle armed robbery


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To reduce kidnappings, South Africa’s police must tackle armed robbery


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Kidnapping in South Africa is four times higher than 10 years ago. In the last three months of 2022, the latest period for which there are official crime statistics, a daily average of 45 kidnappings were reported to the police.

Kidnapping for ransom or extortion cases are often covered by the media, encouraging the view that this motive drives the substantial rise in these offences. However fewer than two kidnappings out of the daily average are linked to ransom demands, human trafficking or extortion.


Kidnapping in South Africa is defined as the unlawful intentional deprivation of a person’s freedom of movement; or if the person is a child, the unlawful intentional deprivation of a parent’s control over the child.

During the nine months from April to December 2022, the South African Police Service (SAPS) recorded 11 702 kidnappings, which surpassed the annual figure of 10 826 from March 2021 to April 2022. In the past 10 years, kidnappings rocketed by 183% from 3 832 in 2012/13 to 10 826 in 2021/22. This upsurge is related to the substantial growth of violent and organised crime.


Some abductions are committed by sophisticated transnational groups specialising in high-value kidnappings. Local crime groups may carry out copycat attacks when they see the success of high-profile kidnappings.

This is one of the findings of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime’s 2022 Strategic Organised Crime Risk Assessment for South Africa. However, these types of kidnappings are relatively uncommon.

The SAPS Crime Registrar’s office routinely analyses the motives for kidnappings in each province across the country. Their analysis shows that most attacks are perpetrated during car or truck hijackings or armed robberies at businesses, homes or public spaces. The main motives for abducting victims during these robberies include stealing cash via mobile banking applications drawn from bank cards, overriding tracking devices, or delaying the victim from raising the alarm.

While this causative analysis was omitted from the most recent October to December 2022 SAPS quarterly crime statistics, Chart 1 shows the motives behind kidnapping cases reported to police between April and September 2022.

The analysis shows that of the 6 357 (84%) cases sampled from the 7 578 kidnappings reported to police during these six months, 45% were committed during a hijacking and 18.5% during another type of robbery.

Chart 1: Causative factors for kidnapping in South Africa, by province, Apr-Sep 2022




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