South African politicians are hiring assassins to kill one another. Some victims were ANC officials who became the targets after exposing or denouncing corruption within the party. The conflict is particularly intense. The new president Cyril Ramaphosa has lamented that the assassinations are tarnishing Mr. Mandela’s dream. Only a handful of police inquiries into the several hundred political killings in South Africa over the last several years have ended with an arrest.
Vuma Magaqa, one of the members of ANC said,
“Back in the day, before freedom, it was a fight between organisations. Now it is a fight within an organisation and it makes me very unhappy. We need to focus on building unity within the ANC and among all South Africans for the future of our children and our country.”
According to the report from the Centre for Criminology at the University of Cape Town and the Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime (GITOC), the targeted assassinations have resulted in the death of many citizens, but among the victims, there is a notable proportion who had been politicians, whistle blowers, proprietors of taxi businesses and members of the legal fraternity. The impact of these assassinations is far reaching as they undermine South Africa’s democracy and Judiciary and threaten fair economic competition- suggesting they are used to exert a mafia- type control over society.
The scale and the scope of assassinations in South Africa have not been monitored or analyzed and the current understanding of assassinations and the response to them is poor. The alarming trend revealed from the data is that there was a marked increase in the total number of assassinations carried out in South Africa since 2012. The murder rate has increased by 6.9% that is 1320 more people have been killed in South Africa in the past year. On an average, 57 people are murdered in South Africa every day. The impact of contract killings targeting those in the South African criminal justice is not limited to the victims or the cases they are connected to. Their effect is felt deeply as these hits are representative of the border issue of intimidation in the justice system. These contract killings convey the message that there is a real possibility that the same violence may be well applied to someone else in the system. This constant threat of violence is tantamount to the capturing of justice system by criminal forces.
An overview of all incidents in which gender was recorded showed that in 86% of the cases (1135 incidents) the victims were male and in 7% of the cases (91 incidents), the victims were female. In 7% of the cases, there were both male and female victims.
Political assassinations are used to destabilize politics in South Africa. From interviews with legal practitioners, it is clear that hits in the justice system have serious ramifications. There is a competition among the political parties in the local elections which is one of the driving forces for contract killings. In South Africa, the use of hits- targeted killing, often paid for and carried out by hitmen- has an impact across all sectors of the society. This form of murder is used to manipulate and exert power over politics, businesses, the criminal justice system and personal relations. Most hits are carried out by well armed assailants. Firearms were used in 83% (1090) cases of the assassinations. In the remaining 17% (227 cases) victims were disposed by other methods like stabbing, strangulation, poisoning, beatings and car accidents.
Although South Africa has legislation to manage firearm control, more efforts should be taken to reduce the flow of illicit arms. A further initiative to improve firearm control would be disaggregate crime statistics, thereby generating more information on weapons used in murders. This will assist in monitoring the effectiveness of gun control policy and enforcement. To conclude, it is the responsibility of both Government and civil society to monitor hits and assassinations in South Africa. Improved monitoring can result in detection of cycles and possibly assist in prevention and early intervention.