Police must turn the heat on the abductors of Moti siblings
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MANYANE MANYANE, MERVYN NAIDOO AND NATHAN CRAIG
By last night there had been no demands for ransom for the Moti siblings, Zidan, 6, Zayyad, 11, Alaan, 13, and Zia, 15, who were abducted, allegedly, by seven men, armed with R5 rifles and dressed in white overalls.
The boys, children of Polokwane business mogul Nazim Moti and his wife Shakira, were snatched while they were en route to their private school - Curro Heuwelkruin.
The suspects allegedly fled with the children in two vehicles towards the N1 North, while the family driver was left at the scene, unharmed.
An investigator who spoke on condition of anonymity indicated that the intention of the kidnappers might have been to secure a hefty ransom, but was unable to furnish further details, in case, his comments tip off the suspects.
The source confirmed that a large contingent of officers made up the operational team, including private security companies, to enable an extended search.
Moti and Shakira, have declined to comment, and referred queries to their lawyer, Philip Smit, who said the family was still reeling from the ongoing ordeal.
However, Smit said they would not entertain any media requests or interviews. “We have been advised by the police to not engage as the investigation is in a sensitive phase and we cannot risk the safe return and wellbeing of the children.”
Moti is the Chief Executive of Moti Auto, a Polokwane-based car dealership that has been operating for the last 25 years.
Lizette Lancaster, manager of the crime and justice information hub at the Institute for Security Studies, said the rate at which kidnapping has proliferated over the last decade was “staggering and shocking”.
Lancaster said there was a 130 percent increase in the number of kidnappings in South Africa between October 2011 and March 2020.
“Around 45 percent were associated with robberies like hijackings where people are driven to withdraw cash or forced to open safes.
Twenty-seven percent of kidnappings happen where the motive is sexual offences and the figure for abductions for ransom or extortion was five percent.”
Lancaster said it is not known for certain at this stage but the Moti kidnappings fitted the last category.
“It seems to be the work of a highly organised group that had intimate knowledge of the family. What the motive is, remains unknown.”
She said, the number of kidnappings for the period April 2019 and March 2020, was 6630, which reflected a 16 percent increase on the previous term.
“If broken down further, the daily average for kidnappings in South Africa was 18.”
She said, it was heartening that the country had highly specialised police members dealing with this type of kidnapping and that some top cops were assigned to the Moti matter, who were privy to all sorts of technology.
Forensic consultant and criminologist Paul O’Sullivan said the kidnapping for ransom syndicates operating in South Africa were a mix of Pakistani and Mozambican nationals.
“This is not a new trend, but the prevalence of it is increasing and it should be very worrying for the government, as it is the type of crime that negatively affects inward investment and tourism. It is also notable that the prevalence seems to be highest amongst members of the Indian community.
“We have come across syndicates comprising a mix of Pakistani and Mozambican nationals, involved in kidnap-for-ransom cases. In many cases, they tend to have dirty cops or metro police officials on their payroll,” said O’Sullivan, who added that the government needs to allocate additional dedicated resources to hunt down and neutralise these syndicates as quickly as possible.
Anti-crime activist Yusuf Abramjee said abductions in South Africa have gone up and there have been dramatic cases over the past year involving two groups of gangs, one highly skilled and the other one consisting of copycats.
“One is a highly organised and highly skilled gang of kidnappers. They target the very wealthy, especially South Africans of Indian descent and mostly business people. We have seen a number of those incidents and these groups even have international links. Sometimes they ask for the money to be paid into foreign bank accounts.
“The second one is a smaller group of copycats and they target, not only locals, but foreigners as well, and they take anything from R10 000 up to R250 000 and sometimes a bit more. I have always suspected that corrupt policemen and officials are involved, and possibly the corrupt metro police aiding and abetting these groups.”
He said, the first group, which is one of the biggest gangs, were now going for soft targets, children, which is very worrying.
“They are brazen and they will do whatever it takes. As we speak, a Johannesburg businessman was kidnapped two days ago and he is still missing, and we have (most of) these incidents on the same day and this is a source of concern,” Abramjee said.
Some of the recent kidnappings that received widespread attention included the May 2019 abduction of businesswoman Sandra Munsamy, a daughter in the family-owned Crossmoor Transport.
A $10m ransom demand was made for Munsamy, but she was freed after a team of detectives tracked her to a house in Witbank, Mpumalanga.
East London businessman Schalk van der Merwe, 42, was kidnapped in February from his workshop in Butterworth, he was also found by police.
In July, a Durban 60-year-old businessman was allegedly kidnapped and kept hostage for seven days before his family received a R10m ransom demand.
A police operation netted two suspects, both aged 48, in Bloemfontein, Free State.
In April, Limpopo businessman Shama Premjee was allegedly kidnapped by suspects travelling in two vehicles. His car was found abandoned along a dusty road in Makhado, Limpopo, on the same day.
In June, Cape Town police rescued a Chinese businessman after a four-day kidnapping and extortion ordeal. The businessman was rescued in a shack in Makhaza in Khayelitsha, Western Cape.