Democracy builds resilience against organised crime – GITOC

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Resilience against organised crime is created by democracy and its institutions, whilst armed conflict feeds greater levels of criminality in Africa, the newly-released ENACT Organised Crime Index report for Africa has found.

The third ENACT Organised Crime Index for Africa, authored by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime (GITOC) was released in Nairobi, Kenya, on 24 November and was emphatic in linking both armed conflict and lack of democratic institutions to increased organised crime.

Organised crime is rising throughout Africa but South Africa was found to have lower levels than the rest of Africa, and to have the highest and well-above average resilience in the Southern African region. However, its defences against rising criminality were found to be weakening.

Widespread insecurity in Africa has also influenced and sustained criminality patterns, the report found.

The Index specifically blamed the politicisation of security institutions for the decline in Southern Africa of resilience against organised crime, a clear reference to South African State Capture and proposed draconian intelligence laws and potential political exploitation.

This brings into sharp relief civil society efforts in South Africa for greater oversight of its proposed sweeping new intelligence laws and highlights proposed budget cuts for the country’s National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), already losing major State Capture and corruption cases in court.

The Index was released in the same week the South African Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence reportedly said it would now hold meetings behind closed doors on the controversial General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill, widely feared to vastly expand surveillance and vetting.

A new feature of the third GITOC report is the addition of five new indicators to measure criminal activity along with the original 10 criminal market indicators, and the addition of the private sector as a new “criminal actor” and market. These are: financial crime, cyber-dependent crimes, illicit trade in excise goods, counterfeit goods, and extortion and protection racketeering.

Weakening resilience

Southern Africa, including countries such as South Africa and Botswana, has higher resilience against organised crime compared to the rest of Africa, but South Africa’s resilience is weakening, according to the report.

GITOC went on to say where there is conflict and instability, criminality increases and where democratic institutions are strong countries are better able to build resilience against organised crime.

“Democracies with an established Rule of Law also tend to have stronger institutions and to some extent lower the levels of corruption, as well as generally-independent judiciary and relatively effective law enforcement, which are key elements in combating organised crime.

“Democracies such as Cabo Verde, South Africa, Mauritius and Botswana, which are assessed to have higher resilience scores, have relatively well-established checks and balances for State accountability and strong non-state actors and social protection mechanisms, such as an active civil society that participates in the fight against organised crime,” the report stated.

In Southern Africa, criminal justice and security measures have also declined since 2019, due to limited resources and capacity to respond to organised crime, and the politicisation of criminal justice and security institutions, the report noted.

“Since 2019 indicators relating to leadership and governance have declined marginally while international co-operation has increased in line with continental trends,” said the report.

South Africa was found to have some of the highest overall criminality scores in Southern Africa (7.18) along with Mozambique (6.20), with GITOC saying there needed to be greater exploration of the sub-components of criminality, hence the index expansion of new actors and criminal indicators.

Reinforcing the link between armed conflict and rising criminality and organised crime, the Index report said the rise of illicit economies continued to undermine regions such as West Africa.

“Armed conflict spilled over in West Africa, reportedly fuelling criminal groups and armed bandits, who sought to expand their areas of influence.

“At the same time, illicit economies such as cattle-rustling and kidnapping for ransom continued to undermine stability in the region, illustrating the growing geographic overlap between crime and conflict zones,” the report stated.

Organised crime prevalent in South Africa

The latest ENACT index is in line with the most recent Global Organised Crime Index (GOCI), released in September, which shows that South Africa ranks seventh in the world out of 193 countries and third in Africa for mafia-style criminal networks and organised crime syndicates.

The report stated South Africa is one of only three African countries in the high crime–high resilience category, along with Nigeria and Senegal. “Unlike the latter two, however, both criminality and resilience scores have worsened in South Africa,” the report noted. “With a high criminality score of 7.18 [out of 10, compared to 6.63 in 2021], the country is an undeniable criminality outlier within Southern Africa, tangibly bringing up the average criminality score for the region.”

“South Africa boasts a number of pervasive criminal markets, heightened by the influence of criminal actors, especially state-embedded actors – responsible for years of state capture – and criminal networks that are highly interconnected,” the report said.

It did add that against a background of a decade-long increasing criminality, erosion of critical infrastructure and undermining of democratic processes through organized corruption and violence for hire, resilience to the impact of organized crime in the country is also high. South Africa also scores the highest in the Southern Africa region in terms of resilience, driven by the efforts of non-state actors to resist organized crime, robust national policies and laws, and strong economic regulatory capacity. These resilience building blocks, however, came under strain in 2022, which saw overall resilience fall.

The opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) calculated the “mafia state” bleeding South Africa’s economy of R155 billion every year: the construction mafia cost the economy R17 billion per annum; infrastructure vandalism and arson (copper cable and rail track theft) cost R47 billion; Eskom’s organised crime networks cost R12 billion; kidnapping and extortion syndicates cost R146 million; the illicit economy (illegal drugs and guns) costs R13.6 billion; wildlife criminal syndicates (illegal abalone and rhino poaching) cost R1.2 billion; illegal mining networks (zama zamas) cost R14 billion; tender corruption costs R30 billion; the tobacco and cigarettes mafia costs R20 billion; and taxi-related crime is unquantified.