SA per­fect for hit­men – De­wani case may be just the lat­est

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - ISSUES - MELANIE PETERS

POVERTY, an in­com­pe­tent jus­tice sys­tem, money to be made from crime, the legacy of apartheid and poor ar ms con­trol make South Africa a breed­ing ground for hit­men.

The case of Bri­tish mil­lion­aire Shrien De­wani, who al­legedly paid for a hit on his wife Anni De­wani, has made in­ter­na­tional head­lines and has raised ques­tions about how easy it is to re­cruit a hit­man in South Africa.

Sev­eral other crimes al­legedly in­volv­ing hit­men have been play­ing out in the me­dia at the same time. These in­clude the al­leged plot to kill for mer Blue Bulls rugby player Deon Hel­berg and the con­vic­tion of Mulalo Sivhidzho for re­cruit­ing hit­men to kill her hus­band Avhatakali Net­shisaulu, son of for mer City Press edi­tor Mathatha Tsedu. The case in­volv­ing the murder of Judge Pa­trick Maqubela, al­legedly by his wife Thandi, is still in court.

Hit­men were also hired to murder baby Jor­dan Leigh Nor­ton, a crime mas­ter minded by Dina Ro­drigues, and to kill mu­si­cian Taliep Petersen at the be­hest of his wife Na­jwa.

David Bruce, se­nior re­searcher at the Cen­tre for the Study of Vi­o­lence and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, said the use of pro­fes­sional hit­men in South Africa went back to the apartheid area, as re­vealed in the TRC hear­ings.

More re­cently, the taxi in­dus­try had seen own­ers and driv­ers re­cruit­ing hit­men to take out their ri­vals.

Johan Burger, se­nior re­searcher for the In­sti­tute for Se­cu­rity Stud­ies, said pro­fes­sional hit­men would not work for less than R100 000.

“But per­pe­tra­tors who pay as lit­tle as R10 000, like Dina Ro­drigues, take huge risks when hir­ing petty crim­i­nals, who bun­gle the hit and end up get­ting caught.”

Burger pointed out that the use of hit­men was not unique to South Africa. “There are con­tract killers around the world. In the past few months there have been a num­ber of high-pro­file cases, but I’m wary of say­ing that there is a trend.

“The coun­try re­ceived a lot of bad press prior to the World Cup, es­pe­cially in Bri­tain. It cre­ated a per­cep­tion that this was the place for a con­tract killing or where you could com­mit a crime and no one would ask any ques­tions.”

Like South Africa, coun­tries such as Mex­ico and Colom­bia had high crime lev­els and an in­creas­ing num­ber of as­sas­si­na­tions.

“Poverty, crime lev­els and de­fi­cien­cies that ex­ist in an in­com­pe­tent jus­tice sys­tem all play a role.”

In­deed, in­ter na­tional stud­ies bear this out. A study by the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Crim­i­nol­ogy in South Aus­tralia re­vealed that the me­dian in­come of a hit­man in Aus­tralia was the equiv­a­lent of about R882 000 – al­though it could reach as much as R540 000 a task.

Hit­men’s in­comes in Spain were also high. Ac­cord­ing to Span­ish govern­ment statis­tics, there are about 40 mur­ders by hit­men a year, each one at a price of be­tween R180 000 and R450 000.

An ar­ti­cle by the In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions and Se­cu­rity Net­work re­veals that hired as­sas­sins in coun- tries like Mex­ico are will­ing to work for low pay, not so much out of eco­nomic des­per­a­tion but be­cause murder-for-hire is a gate­way to more lu­cra­tive crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity.

The un­con­trol­lable flow of arms and the un­like­li­hood of crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion has led to a boom­ing as­sas­si­na­tion busi­ness.

As­sas­sins on the Cheap, an ar­ti­cle by Har­vard doc­toral can­di­date Virid­i­ana Rios, looked into what was caus­ing the in­crease.

He wrote that the cost of a killing in Mex­ico was un­usu­ally low com­pared with other parts of the world.

He said un­em­ploy­ment rates and low wages had been blamed as the prin­ci­pal fa­cil­i­ta­tors of crime.

“How­ever, Mex­i­can hit­men are in the busi­ness also be­cause they hope to climb the crim­i­nal lad­der and even­tu­ally be­come king­pins them­selves. Be­ing a paid as­sas­sin has proven to be the best crim­i­nal pro­fes­sion from which to at­tract the at­ten­tion of drug bosses and start a traf­ficker ca­reer.

“The best as­sas­sins end up form­ing part of the for­mal struc­ture of the drug traf­fick­ing in­dus­try, which is a mon­e­tary jack­pot. ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán, leader of the Si­naloa Car­tel, was recog­nised as the sev­enth-rich­est Mex­i­can in 2009 by Forbes mag­a­zine.”

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