Highlighting that "South Africa comes first," Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise has warned even that foreign nationals will be dealt with harshly if they break the law in SA.
"If South Africans go into any country [and] they rape, [or] they steal, [or] they kill, then they must be dealt with as harshly as the citizens of that country and we shall do the same," she said.
Modise was addressing the media on gains made in their efforts to combat organised crime, along with Police Minister Bheki Cele, as part of the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security cluster (JCPS).
She said the government was making inroads in its efforts to deal with criminal syndicates and their operations.
"South Africans have borne the wrath of criminals masquerading in our communities, causing disruption in their daily lives. In some parts of our communities, extortion and protection fees demanded by criminal syndicates have become the order of the day," the minister said.
"Infrastructure mafias continue to destabilise the construction industry through intimidation, threatening of the people's lives. These and other criminal activities have put fear in our people and undermine the authority of the state," she said.
The minister also highlighted the success of Operation Shanela, which bagged more than 213 000 arrests for various crimes, such as cash-in-transit robberies, extortion at construction sites, and kidnappings, in the past six months.
Seventy-five wanted CIT suspects were arrested in the past six months.
"The arrests were made during foiled CIT attempts, during the commission of these crimes, and during targeted tracing operations."
Through intelligence-led operations, the following major takedowns were achieved.
- In April, a syndicate allegedly linked to a number of CITs in Gauteng was intercepted in Sebokeng where 11 suspects were shot dead. They were intercepted before they left a house that was allegedly used as a safe house, and were en route to commit a CIT.
- Nineteen suspected CIT robbers were shot dead in Makhado, Limpopo on 1 September. Thy were intercepted at a house in Makhado where they were allegedly planning to commit a robbery. This group has allegedly been linked to several CIT incidents in Mpumalanga, Gauteng and Limpopo.
At all these crime scenes, explosives, high-calibre firearms, and ammunition were seized, as well as high-performance vehicles that had either been hijacked or stolen.
Turning to extortion cases, the cluster said the country had experienced sporadic incidents of violence and extortion at economic sites due to demands for a 30% share in community projects.
From April to date, 61 people who are allegedly linked to these extortion rings were arrested.
In cases of kidnapping for ransom, the DPCI (Hawks) and detectives had dedicated teams responsible for tracing and investigating.
The main priority is to rescue and reunite kidnapped victims with their families.
"From April 2023 to date, 98 suspects have been arrested for these crimes, and more than 30 victims have been rescued."
The minister said some of the cases that the team was able to crack involved a syndicate targeting members of the LGBTQIA+ community on a dating app.
"In that operation, an 18-year-old Wits student was rescued, and seven suspects arrested."
In October, another syndicate targeting Portuguese businessmen was also traced, and nine people were arrested.
On the illegal mining front, the cluster said there were 6 100 derelict and ownerless mines, 518 mines in operation in Gauteng, and an additional 1 170 mines in operation in the rest of the country.
The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) is expected to rehabilitate three mines. It has closed 40 mines per year.
It plans to deal with the issue over a period of time.
On the drug front, law enforcement officers have closed down nine drug laboratories worth more than R3-million in Gauteng, the North West, and the Western Cape.
In the space of three weeks, police intercepted large quantities of cocaine in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.
"The latest cocaine consignment was seized last week at the seaport in Gqeberha, where R65-million worth of cocaine was seized from a vessel that was coming in from Brazil. Police were following up on intelligence when the seizure was made," Modise said.
In two other drug busts in KwaZulu-Natal, R150-million worth of cocaine was seized in two days.
"Communities have an important role to play in combatting organised crime and illegal mining. Communities have the responsibility of exposing illegal miners and report them to law enforcement agencies. Be sure that you are not assisting the criminals because you may find yourself on the wrong side of the law," the minister added.