TODANI NODOBA | Crime, unemployment, corruption are key triggers of rising kidnapping cases

Broken promises and inequality also to blame for scourge

The kidnapping spree has recently gained momentum in some parts of SA. A society where the haves are fewer than the have-nots is sitting on a ticking time bomb, says the writer.
The kidnapping spree has recently gained momentum in some parts of SA. A society where the haves are fewer than the have-nots is sitting on a ticking time bomb, says the writer.
Image: Randell Roskruge

Nigeria is one African country well known for mass kidnappings.

In 2014, 276 Chibok girls were kidnapped for ransom and despite the noise from around the world, some are still missing, according to Unicef. Quite recently, about 137 students were abducted for ransom but were later released.

Earlier in March, news reports revealed close to 300 students  were kidnapped for ransom by men known as bandits in Kaduna state, Kuriga village to be precise. According to the SBM intelligence report, between 2022 and 2023 more than 3,000 kidnappings have happened in Nigeria.

The Central Africa Republic (CAR), Chad, and Northern Cameroon are also affected by mass kidnappings and ransom demands. Single kidnappings seem to be outdated and have translated into mass kidnappings. The targets range from women, young men, children and students.

Kidnapping has become a lucrative business in many countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa region. Deteriorating economic conditions is a key trigger of this violent crime. It’s not surprising that one of the largest economies in Africa, Nigeria, is facing this scourge.

Single kidnappings usually target a single household, but mass kidnappings seem to be targeted at both households and the government. Mass kidnappings therefore are both socio-economically and politically inclined. The helplessness of the government in dealing with this scourge is an exposure of the government itself. Although kidnappings had been happening in Nigeria before, the kidnappings in the country reached their peak when the Chibok girls were kidnapped in 2014.

This was when former president Goodluck Jonathan was in power and the international community started making a noise. Not much was achieved in this. The failure to deal with this particular kidnapping seems to have affected the former president’s tenure at both local and international levels.

The same disease seems to have infected our country. The kidnapping spree has recently gained momentum in some parts of SA. In 2021, four boys from one Indian family were kidnapped in Polokwane and later found in the streets of Vuwani in Limpopo.

Recently a mother and son were kidnapped, also for ransom and they later managed to escape. The question is how did we arrive at this? Stats SA figures show that SA’s unemployment rate towards the end of the fourth quarter of 2023 was sitting at 32%. The unemployment crisis, coupled with the high level of corruption and other factors, continues to trigger the high levels of crime.

 So, a combination of factors ranging from high levels of unemployment, corruptive tendencies and practices, and lawlessness are adding to the bucket list of our problems as a country.

A pattern seems to have emerged that has become associated with post-colonial Africa. After independence, there is always what I call the stage of euphoria when those who fought for the Struggle take over and occupy positions of political importance.

While the masses bask under excitement and the glory of pseudo-independence, the black elite is created which then becomes what they abhorred and fought against. It would appear whatever we criticise, we yearn for in secret hence we continue with similar practices. As the black elite rises to replace the former colonialists, the same black elite starts displaying a lavish lifestyle and display a similar conduct closely related to how  white people treated them as black people.

While the black masses continue waiting for what they had been promised by the new regime, they come to the realisation that there is nothing called independence when a few black people are enjoying themselves while the majority suffers.

After the waiting and adoration stage, more and more people try and join the bandwagon and sadly, those who join late are usually left out in the cold. It’s after years of suffering and waiting that violent crimes like kidnappings and murders start surfacing.

This is a message to those who are in the election race. Once you assume power, do not pull the ladder you used to climb and sit in higher positions and forget the masses.

Nature does not accommodate imbalances. A society where the haves are fewer than the have-nots is a society sitting on a ticking time bomb. Those who seek to be elected to power must do so for the right reasons, to serve our people. Should there be any ulterior motives of material gain, chances are you will pay dearly.

Our African continent possesses a wealth of minerals and other resources and the worn-out excuse of blaming the West and apartheid is becoming outdated. SA is already paying dearly for the lack of service delivery and high unemployment rate. We don’t need another classroom.

  • Nodoba is a lecturer in media studies at the University of Venda. She writes in her personal capacity.

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