Combating organised crime in South Africa
Organised crime obstructs the healthy functioning of democratic society, especially in the case of developing countries, like South Africa. Organised criminal groups threaten the well-being of a country’s citizens, while contravening its laws and financial rules. Hence, combating organised crime requires the implementation of harsh measures, which citizens should support for the good of democracy in general and the rule of law in specific. Organised criminal groups flourish in developing countries where border controls are weak, corruption levels are high, law enforcement is deteriorating and trade and communication barriers are removed. After 1994, South Africa’s re-entry into the international community coincided with an increase of international travel, as well as better banking systems, cell phone technology and communication networks. South Africa is thus increasingly being used as a conduit for organised crime, which generates large amounts of funds that enable organised criminal groups to penetrate and corrupt both government and commercial entities. While South African criminal law does not provide a general definition of the concept "organised crime", the South African Police Service Act sets out certain criteria or circumstances under which criminal conduct will be regarded as organised crime. It is submitted that this situation causes a lack of conceptual clarity, which in turn hampers the effective combating of the phenomenon. Over the years South Africa adopted various international instruments aimed at combating organised crime, most significant of which is the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime (2000), which requires Member Parties to implement legislative measures to disrupt organised criminal groups. However, since the dawn of democracy in South Africa in the early 1990’s, the country has been facing its own unique challenges in combating organised crime, which are explored in this study. Adding to the complexity of the phenomenon is the influence which America has had on the international view of organised crime, as well as the international strategies and policies aimed at combating it. The American influence has not escaped South Africa, as the Prevention of Organised Crime Act is largely based on the American Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations Act, resulting in the South African law courts turning to their American counterparts for guidance on interpreting and applying the relevant legislative provisions. Other legislative measures aimed at combating organised crime in South Africa are also explored in this study. The law enforcement entities tasked with the combating of organised crime in South Africa fall short in the implementation of the legislative tools at their disposal, especially when compared with their counterparts in the United Kingdom, with whom South African law enforcement structures have close historical ties. Several recommendations are therefore made to strengthen and empower the South African law enforcement structures to effectively disrupt organised criminal groups. These recommendations are based on an in-depth study of definitional shortcomings; international obligations as well as local challenges; American influences; the current South African legislative framework; and comparisons with the law enforcement structures of the United Kingdom. The recommendations encompass a coordinated, multi-disciplinary approach to the combating of organised crime in South Africa.
- Law