United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) Team,
Member Country Delegates,
On behalf of Government of the Republic of South Africa and all its inhabitants, I would like to warmly welcome you to Cape Town, South Africa. South Africa is indeed once again privileged to host a conference of this caliber.
More so, because this country is also one of the leading and busiest producer of precious metals, such as gold, platinum, silver, etc, a production that is a breeder to transnational organized crime.
Therefore, as a country, we are also vulnerable to the increasing threats of transnational organized crime.
If not effectively combated and prevented, this type of crime will have uncanny capabilities of infiltrating the highest structure and establishment of the State, thus in the process causing the State to fail, as its security and sovereignty would have been severely undermined and compromised.
In the briefing I got from my police officers, it is indicated that precious metals syndicates in South Africa are highly sophisticated, operate in legitimate enterprises, and are highly sophisticated in their pervasive corruption.
This begs the question: can transnational organized crime be resolved by relying on international conventions, agreements or instruments?
This question is in no way trying to belittle or undermine the important work that the United Nations is doing in rallying all nations for global solidarity against our respective problems and for our countries’ development.
But, it is a fact that the increased utilization of cyberspace as a new platform for seamless organized crime creates loose jurisdiction and fluid compliance to existing regulations and control measures against organized crime.
The rapid advances in technology have brought both value and vice. Our achievement in acquiring a global village has also meant a global threat, as criminals are exploiting the global solidarity and a globalised economy.
Borders are thus increasingly open and markets more accessible. This means illicit trade routes have also become shorter, diverse and easily traversed. Inevitably, international criminal trading is no longer the monopoly of large criminal organizations.
Programme Director, today, smaller more reactive networks cooperate with each other. Illicit mining networks therefore consist of complex and inter-linked levels of criminal activity ranging from individual illegal miners; illegal mining bosses; gangs; bulk buyers; front exporters in South Africa; and international refineries and intermediary companies.
Therefore, instead of trying to combat the problem of illicit trafficking in precious metals at a higher international strategic level; we may want to begin at our respective local levels; by trying to synergize our own respective laws against corruption for cleaner governance.
This means we must first contextualize our respective unique problems as countries; and then forge a common balance between the rule of an agreed international law and the socio-economic priorities of each state.
At least, for South Africa, the priority is the creation of employment, retainment of jobs, safety in the working environment, and good governance in the mining sector. For us, any illicit trading in precious metals, whether domestic or transnational, is always linked to a pervasive corruption whether as a benefactor or a beneficiary.
Corrupt officials are always enablers to the illicit trafficking of precious metals, by renting out firearms during extensive turf war violence and murders in illegal mining; by allowing organized syndicates to operate at border-gates; and fraudulently allowing high grade metals to be escorted as jewellery scrap or platinum scrap.
All member states represented here, may thus want to start mobilizing your respective companies, businesses, and indeed your respective government entities to good governance practices and standards for the good of our respective citizens.
Good governance will for sure assist us in the attainment of transparent capital markets; protection of all shareholder rights; encouraging fair trade; and definitely attracting and retaining investors. The long-term investment will be a sustained economic growth and a better life for every citizen.
And, this must be the collective responsibility of all delegates here. You may want to tackle the legislative gaps in key good governance legislations of your respective countries’ to tackle secondary offences prevalent to transnational organized crime, offences such as:
- Pervasive corruption (government officials; private companies; etc)
- Human smuggling/trafficking
- Child labour /gender-based violence
- Explosive related offences
- Hazardous Substances,
- Transnational logistical networks
- Money Laundering,
- Narcotics-Possession / trafficking
- Cable Theft, etc
In this instance, there is an earnest move by South Africa in cooperation with SADC to develop an over-arching strategy to defend, protect, secure and ensure well-managed borders, by establishing an integrated Border Management Agency (BMA).
Furthermore, His Excellency, the President of the Republic of South Africa, Mr. Jacob Zuma, has already announced and endorsed the plan of the Ministry of Police to establish special units that will deal with drugs and related transnational crimes as well as violence and proliferation of firearms in our society.
These units will fall under the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), commonly known as the HAWKS, and will inevitably save South Africa’s fiscal basket, billions of rands.
South Africa, in the form of the HAWKS, currently has a three-pronged approach to the combating of illicit trafficking, trading and corruption:
(i) Coordination of programmes through Inter-Ministerial Security Committee, as it is crucial in identifying, investigating and prosecuting the people and groups behind these crimes.
(ii) Education and Awareness-Raising to ensure that ordinary citizens across the globe should learn more about corruption and organized crime and how it affects everyday lives.
(iii) Intelligence threat assessment and technology by training more specialized law enforcement units to improve intelligence methods and threat assessment methodologies.
As a member state, South Africa recommits to consolidate the international Public-Private Partnership with the United Nations, for we do believe that a crime focus of this complex nature cannot be achieved arbitrarily with a low-key operation.
We are thus pleased to welcome all of the experts who are delegates here, who will exchange presentations, best practices and ideas, in an effort to enhance cooperation and solidarity against transnational organized crime.
I am confident that this two-day dialogue, engagement and exchange of ideas will yield to a host of network bi-laterals and concrete plan of actions.
We must all strive with boldness, to go beyond our strategic interests and begin in earnest in solving global governance problems that trigger all sorts of organized corrupt criminal acts against both the state and its people.
In conclusion, Programme Director, may I take this opportunity to wish you all an informative and worthwhile engagements and deliberations. Please, do also take time to experience the beauty of our country and its people.
I thank you for your attention.