A new crime trend has been recorded in KwaZulu-Natal, where undocumented foreign nationals and amaphara (homeless drug addicts) are recruited as hitmen and drug peddlers by crime syndicates.
Senior police officers in the South African Police Service (SAPS) intelligence cluster, who didn’t want to be named because of the sensitivity of the information, said the emergence of this new trend is among the reasons some assassinations were so difficult to solve.
“In the Durban CBD, for instance, there is a community of about 1 000 people who have taken shelter under a bridge along the railway line near the city centre. These people have not been profiled to ascertain their background or citizenship. Some may be undocumented foreign nationals coming from all over Africa. This alone tells you there’s a crisis,” a senior police officer explained.
The senior ranking commander also told Sunday World that police random searches revealed that some of amaphara who erected shelters, calling them homes, show that they are hardened criminals wanted for serious crimes, while others were released from prison.
“Some of them are rejected by their families because of the seriousness of the offences they have committed. They then establish themselves with like-minded people in these shelters. This is where they are recruited and used to commit various crimes ranging from murder to drug conduits,” said the cop.
He pointed out that a new phenomenon had also emerged in the hitmen trade, where the destitute were used as contract killers.
“It is an ongoing police investigation but we suspect that some of them are recruited by criminal cartels to be used as hitmen, mainly because of their desperation. They are also cheap to hire and are ready to do anything for money,” he said.
KwaZulu-Natal has been besieged by assassinations of high-profile individuals, from politicians to taxi industry rivals, and also rivals in the illicit drug trade.
South Africa’s highly acclaimed rapper, Kiernan Forbes, better known as AKA, was also allegedly snuffed out by hired killers. So brazen was the
murder that the hitmen shot him at point blank in full view of patrons at an eatery on the busy Florida Road in the Durban city centre.
His callous murder remains unsolved.
Lieutenant-General Shadrack Sibiya, the deputy national commissioner for crime detection, confirmed to Sunday World that there was an interconnectedness between the drug cartels and the assassination industry, and that the homeless often fell prey to being used in organised crime. He said that the SAPS intelligence services had their radar firmly focused on dismantling such activities.
“It is also a well-known fact that drug lords, kingpins and masterminds will always hide behind the scenes and use those that need money to survive to carry out their crimes.”
He, however, cautioned: “One needs to be very careful in dealing with the issue of unprofiled homeless people because this may send a very bad message or impression that being poor and homeless means that you are a criminal.”
Sibiya said the SAPS Organised Crime Investigation, the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, and Crime Intelligence, were equal to the tasks.
“They have done a very good job. We are proud of our successes in the country, particularly in KZN, where we have arrested many hitmen, both in taxi violence and political killings.”