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A SAFETY CONCERN

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While surfing through the web in search of how safe people are from incidents of kidnapping, I found mild relief that Swaziland does not feature on the list of high risk countries.


I say mild because if there is one thing the country does not need, it is the failure to crackdown on cases such as that of Matsapha businessman Almor Oliveira who was kidnapped five days ago.
This is the fourth case and probably not the last unless our local security agents can assure the business community and their families of their safety by promptly bringing the culprits to book.


Kidnappings, or threats to the safety of investors, are worse than a downgrade to junk status for any country in my books. According to Risk Map 2015, one of dozens of agencies that look at risk profiles of countries, Mexico topped the list of countries with the rate of kidnappings.


It is followed by India, Pakistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Libya, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Sudan and Lebanon among others.  In Africa Nigeria is described by Risk Map as holding the title of ‘the kidnapping hotspot of Africa’ because of its entrenched criminality in the south-east and Islamist insurgency in the north which fuels violence and insecurity.


Our neighbours South Africa come in at position 20 in the world, according to Business Insider and given its proximity to us, perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised that we are starting to see a rise in this form of crime. Neighbour Mozambique has also been reported to have high incidents of kidnapping. These incidents could explain the common trend in many of the countries listed above of businessmen moving around under the watchful eye of burly bodyguards, even to a Sunday church service.


One is immediately reminded of former Ngwenya Iron Ore mine boss Shan of Salgaocar, who had about five black-suited men around him when going about his business. 
As a citizen of Asian countries, which feature high on the list, you get to understand what the bodyguard fuss was all about.
Our local police also beefed up his security with an escort, which is hardly ever afforded to our local businessmen such as the kidnapped Oliveira, who would probably not have become the latest victim.


The reward is probably the best police can do but they have got to do more than just escort money to the bank for our business people. A huge investment is made in the security forces so we are justified to expect a safe and secure country.  The emergence of this crime in Swaziland also presents a new security headache for the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) as it pushes regional integration and industrialisation agenda.
Any black spots in the bloc tarnish the region, particularly if the marketing of new investment opportunities in Southern Africa is centred around the opportunities of the 15 member states combined.  We cannot allow ourselves to become the black sheep of the region.


What we should not lose sight of as a country is the fact that it is not just kidnapping that is becoming a threat to the economy and businesspeople. The ‘landela gang’ trend where people are followed out of the bank and robbed as well as housebreaking and theft, are beginning to scare off anybody looking for a peaceful and safe place to live. Police patrols seem to be few and far between giving thieves a free-for-all. Sleep is now hard to come by for many neighbourhoods despite the introduction of community police or neighbourhood watch schemes.


National Commissioner of Police Isaac Magagula believes his charges have what it takes to bring the kidnap culprits to book while dangling an E150 000 reward. Hundreds of officers have recently been promoted, presumably for good work. Well it’s time to prove they deserved it by finding Oliveira alive and returning him to his distraught family. As they do so, police should be reminded that there is a long list of missing persons in this country. It would do the police great service to make it a habit to announce their breakthroughs in each case because current perception is that once you go missing in this country chances of being found are close to zero.
Despite this, we remain optimistic that Oliveira will be found and returned home safely. Our prayers are with the family.

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