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Murder made simple: How South Africa's black market for assassins is thriving

Murder made simple: How South Africa's black market for assassins is thriving
South African rapper, AKA   -  
Copyright © africanews

South Africa

The price of eliminating someone in South Africa is between 130 and 8,000 euros. What makes the difference? The nature of the target, an unbearable husband will cost less than a local councillor. And the qualifications of the hitman.

No one knows yet how much AKA's murder cost. Kiernan Forbes, 35, a South African rap star, was killed in mid-February on a pavement outside a Durban restaurant as he left a dinner party with friends. The case shocked the country, which is used to almost routine violence, and a ceremony in his memory was broadcast live on television.

Crime is a daily occurrence in South Africa. According to the latest police statistics, 82 murders are committed every day and investigations are rarely solved. The country has a reputation as one of the most dangerous in the world.

In CCTV footage widely shared on the internet, the scene lasts 19 seconds. A man crosses the road. In the last few metres, he runs towards the happy little group and shoots the rapper at close range. Another man opens fire at the same time. The two assailants disappear into the night.

AKA dies on the spot. His friend Tebello Motsoane or "Tibz", 41, was also killed.

The police say they are working on several leads. Seized phones have provided information; no arrests have been made yet. But the initial findings of investigators pointing to an assassination have rekindled concern about the phenomenon of hitmen in South Africa.

- Killer killed -

Sordid schemes to collect life insurance money, political battles resolved by the murder of a troublesome rival, the assassination of a scrupulous civil servant alerting to irregularities in accounts... Murder for hire is common.

However, "few cases involving contract killers end up in court (...) And if there is a risk of it happening, the contract killers often get themselves eliminated," Mary de Haas, an academic specialising in political violence in the Zulu region (east), which is particularly affected by the phenomenon, explained to AFP.

It seems easy enough to make someone disappear in South Africa," she said.

Henchmen are paid between €130 and nearly €8,000, according to a study published in 2021 by the Swiss think tank Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC), which compiled data on commissioned murders over four years.

In Cape Town, a municipal worker was recently shot dead in her car. She was entering the construction site of a large housing project worth more than 25 million euros. According to a source in the city council, attempts at intimidation and extortion had been made against employees at the site shortly before the alleged murder.

The city, held by the country's largest opposition party (DA), has offered a reward of more than 5,000 euros for information. Determined to carry out its own investigation, the city council criticises the police for periodically repeating the gloomy litany of ever-increasing crime figures.

Wearing his trademark black Borsalino, Police Minister Bheki Cele, who is under fire, presents the latest statistics every quarter at a curious live broadcast.

It is "more of a history lesson highlighting the shortcomings of policing, than a tool" against criminals, criticises the mayor.

The police "continue to arrest hired killers and those who order the killings", Cele said.

Only two out of ten murder cases (20.74%) are solved, according to the latest annual police report.

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