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Hitmen feel ‘almost as vulnerable as victims’

Surprising new findings suggest that hired hitmen feel “almost as vulnerable as those they have killed”.

The report, by the UCT Centre for Criminology, further states that hitmen’s tenuous relationships with their employers, as well as being “inside-outsiders”, leave them feeling “fragile”.

The report, part of a country-wide project investigating the murky world of contract killing in South Africa, conducted in-depth interviews with seven henchmen involved in gang violence in the Western Cape.

The study noted that contract killings are “surprisingly prevalent” in the country, and that murder has became more “commercialised”.

The authors stated that the common “typology” of hitmen, as carrying out killings in a professional and skilful way, ignored the scope for their vulnerability.

They said that the hitmen they interviewed relied on the gang that hired them for their own protection, while at the same time being threatened by it.

Hitmen also faced the tension of relying on their employer to “keep quiet” about their killings. Moreover, hitmen often know the secrets of employers and disloyalty could see the “assassin become assassinated”.

KwaZulu-Natal violence monitor Mary de Haas said she was “not surprised” that hitmen had feelings of vulnerability.

“Hitmen are expendable. If you look at court cases, it’s the hitmen that are the ones who get caught and they sometimes get killed before speaking to police (by employers),” she said.

“Hitmen feel vulnerable because there is the feeling (by their employer) that they may talk. If people feel that they (hitmen) are not reliable anymore, they will kill them.

“Very few murderers get arrested, and when they do, they’re usually hitmen. De Haas said contract killings were a problem in KZN.

“People use hitmen for anything – to take out business partners, their wife’s boyfriend, it’s used in the taxi industry,” she said.

“Some of the people killed in Glebelands in the last year are the alleged hitmen. In the run-up to the elections, there were many political killings in KZN that were done execution-style, which indicates (the use of) hitmen.”

De Haas expressed concern over how easy it appeared to be to hire hitmen in the province.

“If Mr X wants to kill his wife, he will hire a hitman. People know where to find hitmen and guns.”

De Haas said this could be linked to combat training and arm struggles between ANC and IFP in the 1990s, and the availability of weapons.

“I looked through court and Truth and Reconciliation records that spoke of arms caches in the province – I stopped counting when I reached 50.

She said the ease of access to hitmen and guns was a failure on the part of the criminal justice system.

“We are in a state of virtual anarchy,” she said.

Source : IOL

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