FRIDAY BRIEFING | Assassi(nation): Welcome to the mafia state

Friday Briefing | Assassinations

In South Africa, there are an average of two assassinations a week.

The price of human life is anything between R2 600 and R156 000 in the country, depending on who the victim is and how complex the hit is supposed to be (actually, some reports indicate that R500 will get you a gun-for-hire.)

The hitmen-for-hire industry has been normalised to the extent that shopping around for a contract killer can be quantified and defined by supply-and-demand economic principles.

You want your wife or husband killed? All you need is about R5 000; you need your comrade killed because they have more votes than you, put money in a trash can and the comrade will “disappear”; some kid in your family insulted your mother, there’s a man ready to do the dirty deed for you.

This is not fiction. This is the reality in South Africa.

Killings are motivated by insurance fraud, love triangles, family disputes, political rivalries, consolidating gang or industry power, or even simply because someone looked at you “skeef” (disrespectfully).

This is not a new phenomenon in South Africa as there are numerous books, studies and news reports from the dawn of democracy that exhibit the state of South Africa’s hitman industry, but they were mostly confined to the shadowy underworld. However, in recent years these executions have become more brazen, with high-profile targeted killings something most citizens brush off as another day in Mzansi.

In this week’s Friday Briefing we target the country’s assassinations by unpacking the toll these killings are taking on our 29-year-old democracy; consider the relationship between a failing law enforcement institution and organised crime leading to a mafia state; and list some of the high-profile targeted deaths the country has been shocked by.

Author and analyst Rumbi Matamba writes that targeted killings need urgent attention as they severely threaten the democratic order and devastate society. Matamba, who works at the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, focuses on the business of killing, the reasons for killing and lack of police strategy and will.

Professor Theodore Petrus from the University of Free State writes on the link between law enforcement organisations and organised crime. Petrus, who specialises in research on gang culture and violence, argues that South Africa is hurtling towards a mafia state in real time as the necessary conditions are evident.

Muhammad Hussain highlights some of the high-profile assassinations that have struck South Africa’s core foundations from musicians, politicians, and underworld leaders to whistleblowers.

It is indeed a heavy briefing just before the weekend, but one that is necessary. This cannot be the norm.

Take care,

Muhammad Hussain

In-depth writer

LIST | Assassinations that still keep South Africans awake at night

These are just some of the assassinations and targeted killings that South Africans had to experience over a past couple of years. This list is not exhaustive and is a mere illustration of how ubiquitous killing someone in South Africa is, as the reasons, locations and people vary but the outcome is the same. 

Friday Briefing | Assassinations