Risk Bulletin Download PDF

Observatory of Illicit Economies in Eastern and Southern Africa


Summary highlights

  1. The long road to prosecuting Moazu Kromah and his wildlife-trafficking network.

    In the Southern District of New York, a wildlife-trafficking prosecution quietly ended in a plea bargain. Liberian national Moazu Kromah, alleged to have been the ringleader of one of the most active wildlife-trafficking syndicates on the African continent, pled guilty to three wildlife-related offences in March 2022. His two co-accused also later pled guilty. When Kromah was expelled to the US in 2019, his arrest was hailed as an unprecedented success in international cooperation to counter wildlife trafficking. Yet prosecutions of Kromah’s network are ongoing. There are at least 15 major ivory-trafficking cases relating to over 30 tonnes of ivory linked to Kromah that have been in prosecution in the Kenyan courts since 2010. Of these, only one has seen a conviction, with the two accused both receiving two-year sentences. The progress of these prosecutions raises bigger questions regarding the capacity of the prosecution authorities managing these cases, and the role of NGOs in supporting wildlife-trafficking prosecutions.

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  2. Months of elevated gang violence reached crisis level in Grassy Park, Cape Town, in April.

    Four people were killed and two more injured over the Easter holiday weekend in shooting incidents in Grassy Park, a small area of Cape Town. This deadly spate of shootings is the latest flare-up in a period of elevated gang violence that has harried this close-knit community over recent months, as several local gangs jostle for territory. Since late October 2021, 38 people have been killed, and two more have survived murder attempts, in the area that spans just a few square kilometres of Cape Town’s southern reaches. Many of these deaths have taken place on the borders of gang territories. The violence is having a deep impact on the community, not least because the threat of violence is impeding government service delivery to this already marginalized area. Local police face the challenge of improving their fractured relationship with residents, and of giving witnesses the confidence to testify in gang-related cases.

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  3. The emergence of a ‘bulk commodity illegal industry’ in South African chrome mining.

    South Africa is the world’s biggest producer of chrome ore, an essential component in producing stainless steel. Yet it is estimated that around 10% of annual production is lost to illegal mining. Wildcat mining operators exploit exceptions in South African mining law – designed to allow small-scale and artisanal miners to operate – to pose as legitimate companies and shift enormous quantities of chrome ore with heavy machinery in broad daylight. The industry is fraught with dangers: from the risks that miners working on these sites face, to the increasing reports of violence associated with chrome mining, to the environmental cost of uncontrolled exploitation of surface deposits of chrome.

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  4. Data on assassinations shows stark reality of violence in KwaZulu-Natal.

    KwaZulu-Natal stands out among South Africa’s provinces for having the highest frequency of politically linked assassinations. For three of the last six years, political assassinations in KwaZulu-Natal were as high or higher than all the other South African provinces combined, according to the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC)’s assassinations monitoring data. The province also reports high rates of assassinations linked to organized crime and the taxi industry, which suggests that the two forms of violence are connected. Factional battles within the ruling African National Congress (ANC) are being settled through violence. Observers in KwaZulu-Natal argue that intimidation by strongman politicians and patronage networks are ruling the region’s political landscape.

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About this issue

In this 25th issue of the Risk Bulletin of Illicit Economies in East and Southern Africa, our research has focused primarily on South Africa. First, we have gathered data on gang territories and shootings in Grassy Park, an area of Cape Town that has seen a significant rise in gang-related violence in recent months. The communities in Grassy Park and areas like it endure a shocking concentration of violence that outstrips almost all other cities globally. Providing support to community responses to organized crime – often in areas like Grassy Park – is the aim of the GI-TOC’s Resilience Fund, which has recently celebrated three years of its work. The Resilience Fund currently supports several organizations in the greater Cape Town area.

KwaZulu-Natal province, traditional powerbase of the ANC, is currently a volatile political landscape, as evidenced by the days of unrest that erupted following the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma in July 2021. Our data has tracked how, over 20 years, KwaZulu-Natal has been the epicentre of assassinations in South Africa, in particular political assassinations and killings linked to the taxi industry. Our research in this issue also looks into South Africa’s booming illicit chrome-mining sector, as recent police operations have broken up large chrome-mining operations working outside of the law. New GI-TOC research of these criminal markets will form part of an overall risk assessment of organized crime in South Africa, which will be published in the coming months.

Finally, one story in this issue looks to East Africa: to Kenya and Uganda, specifically. Moazu Kromah stood accused of running one of the largest wildlife-trafficking syndicates on the entire African continent. At the time of his expulsion from Uganda to the United States for prosecution, conservation organizations hailed it as a major victory of international cooperation. Yet the recent plea deals of Kromah and his co-accused passed with little public remark. Our analysis of 15 major trafficking cases in Kenya linked to Kromah show that many of these prosecutions have faced significant delays. Prosecuting the head of a trafficking organization may be one victory, but prosecution of an entire network, over several years, is clearly a much greater challenge.