“Give me a good reason why I shouldn’t kill you now. Tell your people to give us the money,” these are the words that one of the foreign nationals who left their country to come and live and work in South Africa was told by his kidnappers who promised to kill him if his relatives were to fail to send R60,000 for his release.
Foreign nationals in the Eastern Cape fear they are being targeted by a criminal syndicate out to extort as much as they can from them. Since January, 36 members of the Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Ethiopian communities are said to have lost millions to unknown kidnappers. Just 14 cases were reported to the police. The other 22 were not reported because the victims feared reprisals.
This is according to a source in the Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Ethiopian communities in the Chris Hani area, who asked not to be named fearing reprisals. The source said the victims were business owners and workers in stores or spaza shops in the Chris Hani and KSD municipal areas.
In a video doing the rounds on social media, seen by the news crew, a man is filmed sitting on the ground while three men point guns at him, forcing him to ask his family for money.
“Today is your last day,” one of the men says.
“What must we say to your wife? Where is your money? We are going to kill you, brother. I’m making a video. Give me a good reason why I shouldn’t kill you now. Tell your people to give us the money.”
The man, a foreign national, was kidnapped and tortured for eight days until R60,000 was paid for his freedom.
Speaking to the Dispatch on Monday, he recalled his ordeal.
“They beat me every day. I’m a small spaza shop owner and I didn’t have the R60,000. They poured boiling water on my body and beat me. I have sores all over my body,” he said.
The Dispatch reported that the largest amount demanded in ransom so far has been R3 million, with the lowest being R60,000. The source said there had been several kidnappings each month this year.
“We need help. No one has been arrested. We are scared. Those who can, have left the country. But it’s difficult for others because they have homes and children in local schools. We are desperate. If you’re a foreign national they will kidnap you and demand ridiculous amounts of money. If the money wasn’t paid, would the victim be killed?” he asked.
The first two incidents occurred in January in Whittlesea. These were followed by kidnappings in Lady Frere, Ngcobo, Cofimvaba, Dordrecht, Mthatha and surrounding areas.
In a press briefing organised by the Komani Border-kei Chamber of Business, a member of the Pakistan Association of SA based in Mthatha, who also did not want to be named, said threats started last year, when unknown men began randomly storming into their shops making demands.
“They would demand we pay a protection fee and say if we did not, a big storm would come and they would kill us. We complained to the local police but nothing much was done. In February we had our first case of kidnapping. We know the criminals are working with people in our circles because they know about our meetings and who was in attendance, which is a major concern.”
Red Guard Security officials who were part of the meeting said they were contacted by the businessmen to protect them. Dylan Edwards, of Red Guard, said: “This has become serious to a point where they approached us for assistance with armed guards and response.”
The mayors of Engcobo and KSD municipalities, where the kidnappings are most common, will be meeting with law enforcement units to outline ways in which security can be tightened.
Police spokesperson Warrant Officer Majola Nkohli said the matter was with the Hawks and an inquiry should be forwarded to them.
When contacted for comment, national Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Thandi Mbambo said she was waiting for confirmation that the cases were under investigation by the Hawks. She had not provided an update by print deadline on Tuesday.
Engcobo’s Siyabulela Zangqa said he would meet the local station commander and other law enforcement officials to get a clear briefing about the extent of the crimes on Tuesday.
“We convened a meeting with the local station commander to get a report about the kidnappings. In my last interaction with the station commander we agreed that installation of security cameras would assist. These are not ordinary crimes. The culprits are even monitoring family members and they are not happy when they meet with police.
“We need to know who gives them information. Losing these businessmen will be a great loss for our local economic development because foreign nationals employ a huge number of locals. Potential investors who’ve heard about these crimes have already expressed their concern.”
– Daily Dispatch