'Our region should not be a safe haven for organised crime,’ warned Angola’s Minister of Interior, Ângelo de Barros da Veiga Tavares, at the annual general meeting (AGM) of the Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Cooperation Organisation (SARPCCO), held in Luanda at the end of May.
Tavares called for increased regional cooperation among police institutions and encouraged them to invest more in technology. This, he said, would boost police capacity to stem the scourge of organised crime in the region.
The debate that has become a hallmark of SARPCCO AGMs was minimal this year as the police chiefs reached consensus on the issues discussed. The spirit of cooperation was unprecedented. Some observers attributed this to the fact that for the first time in the history of the organisation, the majority of the police chiefs present were newly appointed and attending in that capacity for the first time. The recently appointed police chiefs represented Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Other observers believe that the agenda, which was fairly uncontroversial, was the main reason why the AGM had gone so smoothly.
Whatever the reason, there seems to be a new sense of agreement among Southern African police institutions that old habits should be dispensed with so that a united front could be presented against regional threats. This spirit of unity seems to be carried forward by a new breed of police chiefs and technocrats who are determined to break the hold of criminal networks throughout the region.
Organised crime has become virulent across Southern Africa. The regional perception of organised crime was discussed in a threat assessment and crime analysis report for Southern Africa, which was prepared and presented by ENACT implementing partner, INTERPOL. The report highlighted some of the key drivers, trends and impact of organised crime, as well as the proceeds of these crimes.
The assessment – a version of which will be published in a forthcoming ENACT report – was hailed as insightful analysis that captures the crime situation in Southern Africa objectively. It found that policing in the region had been mostly reactive, and called for a proactive approach that is informed by robust and systematic analysis of the criminal economy. This would improve understanding of how and why particular crime types occur, and also lead to greater clarity regarding the identity, location and modus operandi of perpetrators.
The discussion at the AGM pointed to a growing number of unconventional forms of transnational organised crime in the region. These including dynamite (explosives) fishing in Tanzania, ritual killings, and a new rise in kidnapping children for ransom in South Africa.
'This crime analysis underscored the dire need for increased information-sharing, including crime data, among states and [also] between states and the [INTERPOL] Regional Bureau,’ noted Mubita Nawa, Head of the INTERPOL Regional Bureau for Southern Africa, and the Secretariat of SARPCCO.
At the end of the four-day meeting, the chairmanship of SARPCCO was transferred from Angola to Zambia. The new chairman, Zambian Inspector General of Police Kakoma Kanganja, pledged to follow through on the decisions of the AGM. ‘Gone are the days of organised crime, which has caused so much mayhem in our society,’ said Kanganja, calling on to his peers to show greater solidarity and unity of purpose against a common enemy in the region.
Whether Kanganja and his colleagues will initiate a new dawn in crime fighting in Southern Africa will remain to be seen. SARPCCO Secretariat, Mubita Nawa, believes that the AGM seemed to have ‘rekindled enthusiasm in SARPCCO with the coming of new police chiefs.’ He further expressed the hope that the new police leaders ‘will maintain the momentum by living up to their words in the fight against transnational organised crime.’
Martin Ewi, ENACT technical coordinator and regional organised crime observatory coordinator for Southern Africa, ISS