Spotlight: A new SADC strategy to combat organised crime in Southern Africa

2021-03-03

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) is working on a comprehensive strategy to identify, understand and combat transnational organised crime in the region. SADC and its member states have separate protocols and strategies to address an array of growing cross-border threats including the smuggling of weapons, drugs and wildlife, as well as human trafficking. Related transnational crimes such as illicit financial flows and terrorism are also on the rise in the region.

Given the nexus between these offences and the role that organised crime networks play in these threats, a single wide-ranging strategy is needed. This was first identified in 2004 in SADC’s Strategic Indicative Plan for the Organ on Defence, Politics and Security, which advises member states on regional challenges and responses. Since then, it has been a recurring recommendation in various SADC strategic meetings and documents.

After the ENACT project released an INTERPOL assessment of organised crime in Southern Africa in 2018, the Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Cooperation Organisation (SARPCCO) recommended that the SADC Secretariat and INTERPOL develop a regional crime-combatting plan. The ISS was among various organisations that contributed to writing the zero draft.

‘This was an important opportunity for the ENACT project and the ISS, which have long been advocating for a comprehensive regional strategy to confront transnational crime in the region,’ said Martin Ewi, an ISS organised crime expert in the ENACT project. The ISS prioritised its collaboration with the SADC Secretariat by providing expert technical support to the process.

ISS prioritised its collaboration with the SADC Secretariat by providing expert technical support

The ISS has deep insights into organised crime, based on its research and ENACT’s five regional observatories across the continent. ‘We know that the perpetrators of illicit activity share smuggling routes, intelligence, technology and operatives,’ Ewi explained. ‘So seeing transnational organised crime from a wider perspective enables SADC states, law enforcement agencies and other affected government departments to collaborate more effectively.’

For example, if wildlife offences aren’t recognised as part of a wider organised crime phenomenon, they may be handled by anti-poaching units and environmental activists, without seeing the links with other illicitly traded goods. The role of the drug trade in financing other types of organised crime also needs to be accounted for.

A zero draft of the strategy was completed in May 2020 and approved in September that year by a SADC technical working group. The document is now on track to be adopted by SADC’s various policy organs and heads of state and government.

The strategy will present SADC countries with a tool to implement a range of regional security instruments and decisions. It provides a common framework for tactical, operational and strategic approaches to organised crime. It includes mechanisms for transparency, cooperation and monitoring and evaluation. An accompanying action plan will identify timelines, resources and partners needed for effective implementation.

‘By seeing organised crime as an interdisciplinary problem, the strategy gets all roleplayers involved in an integrated manner. Essentially it makes the job of combating organised crime a societal responsibility and not just a task for law enforcement agencies,’ Ewi said.

For more information contact:

Martin Ewi, ISS: +27 760 791 075; [email protected]

Photo: REUTERS / Alamy Stock Photo

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