Political assassinations, targeted ‘hits’ and contract killing have developed into a significant problem in South Africa. However, the extent and nature of the phenomena is largely unexplored, including the impact on political and economic life in the country.

A detailed review of reported incidents between 2000 and 2016 and has identified some 1140 cases.

The greatest number in this period took place in relation to economic competition, mainly targeted hits associated with the taxi industry.
A second category, however, that of political ‘hits’, with the details of individual cases often showing a close linkage to tender competition and/or disputes. The recent high profile assassination of prominent businessman Wandile Bozwana is a good example of how such murders are the result of the intertwining of economic and political interests.
A third category of cases are those more closely related to what might be termed “traditional organised crime”, including gang hits in Cape Town and underworld style killings like those linked to Radovan Krecjir. At least on what has been reported, the numbers of these cases are far lower.
Despite media coverage, only a small proportion of cases are contract killings within families or relationships, such as in the widely reported case of Jayde Panayiotou. This suggests the urgent requirement to focus on targeted hits and assassinations that take place for economic and/or political gain.

Our research also suggests that a small number of perpetrators may be involved, drawing from a series of reservoirs of violence: taxi hit men; gang contract killers or ‘hammermen’, private security operators, and ex- or serving police and military officials.

Aims and Objectives

The main objective of the project is to collate data on targeted killings and assassinations and to use that information to raise the profile of cases and their impact on political, economic and social life in the country. This is particularly important given that many of the ‘hits’ have targeted local government officials, whistleblowers and witnesses.

The use of targeted violence in this way is inimical to the achievement of an Open Society, undermining confidence in political and economic processes, and subverting transparent and clean contracting and political campaigning. The use of targeted violence for economic gain is at its heart a process linked to mafia-style control of public life.