Kidnapping in South Africa is a common crime in the country, with over 4,100 in the 2013/2014 period, and a child going missing every five hours.[1][2]

The 1966 kidnapping for ransom of Etty Glazer for R140,000 was 4 times the ransom paid in the Lindbergh kidnapping and was the highest paid ransom demand in the world at the time.[3]

Walter da Silva a Brazilian professional footballer was kidnapped by dissatisfied soccer fans in an attempt to alter the outcome of a 1999 Premier Soccer League clash. He was the coach of Moroka Swallows F.C. at the time. The Kidnappers ordered him to phone two of his technical assistants and tell them to leave the match.[4]

In 2004 Benedict Cumberbatch and two friends were kidnapped by 6 armed men near St Lucia, KwaZulu-Natal. Benedict only spoke publicly about it in July 2009 at an interview for a book launched by the Prince's Trust and Starbucks.[5]

On 16 March 2015, 48-year-old Chen Lin, was kidnapped for ransom by four armed men in front of his Kokstad apartment gate. They took him to a property near Bizana, some 80 km away. They contacted his wife, using his phone, and demanded a R2,000,000 (2 Million Rand) ransom. The next day two of the kidnappers left to purchase food in the nearby town. While away, the two remaining kidnappers apparently snorted cocaine, and sometime later fell asleep. At this time Mr Lin managed to free himself, and escape; a passing motorist picked him up and took him to hospital.[6]

Notable cases

Date Victim(s) Abductor(s) Location Age of victim(s) Outcome Notes
30 March 1966 Etty Glazer,Sammy Glazer Leonard Landou Levy, Ephraim Levy, Stanley Ivan Jawitz Morningside, Johannesburg (unknown), 22 months Returned after ransom was paid. Etty Glazer and son Sammy were returned safely after a ZAR 140,000 ransom was paid. Etty Glazer was able to recall enough detail of the location they were kept that the police were able to locate it within a day of searching. The kidnappers were arrested and most of the ransom money returned.[3]
8 May 1985 Sipho Hashe, Champion Galela, Qaqawuli Godolozi Gideon Nieuwoudt, South African Security Police Port Elizabeth unknown Murdered The three men were apprehended by members of the Security Police and taken to an abandoned police station at Post Chalmers, near Cradock, Eastern Cape. They were then interrogated, beaten and finally strangled. The bodies were burned and the remains were thrown into the nearby Fish River.
1 August 1988 - 11 January 1990 Tracy-Lee Scott-Crossley, Fiona Harvey, Joan Horn, Rosa Piel, Odette Boucher, Anne-Mari Wapenaar, Yolanda Wessels, Joan Booysen Cornelius Gerhardus 'Gert' van Rooyen, Joey Haarhoff Randburg, Pietermaritzburg, Pretoria, Durban 9 - 16 Still missing apart from Joan Horn (released) and Joan Booysen (escaped) Van Rooyen was linked to most of the missing girls in some way, however he shot his accomplice Joey, and then himself just before the police could arrest him. Most cases remain unsolved as the bodies have not been found.
29 December 1988 Stompie Moeketsi, Kenny Kgase, Pelo Mekgwe, Thabiso Mono Winnie Mandela's bodyguards Orlando, Soweto 14 One killed, three beaten but released. Moeketsi and 3 others were accused of being a police informers. While the other 3 survived a severe beating, Moeketsi had his throat cut.[7]
30 April 1997 Zephany Nurse (Protected by court order) Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town 2 days Returned after 17 years Reunited with her biological family after her younger near identical sister started at the same school. Most of her friends joked that they were sisters.[8]
17 November 1999 Walter da Silva Unknown Johannesburg 57 Released after 3 hours Da Silva was kidnapped by two men and was forced to make a phone call to his assistants ahead of a game against Bush Bucks, asking them to leave the stadium. The kidnappers also stole ZAR1, 500 rands.[4]
2004 Benedict Cumberbatch, Denise Black, Unnamed South African Unknown Santa Lucia, KwaZulu-Natal 28, 46, unknown Released after a few hours When returning from a scuba diving trip, the vehicle they were traveling in had a blow out. While fitting the spare, they were accosted by 6 armed men. They were bound up and driven around for a while. After a discussion with Cumberbatch about a fear of small places, and an argument among themselves, the kidnappers released all three.[9][10]
9 July 2004 Leigh Matthews Donovan Moodley Morningside, Johannesburg 21 Murdered Donovan Moodley claimed that he intended to release Leigh Mathews after the ransom was paid, however panicked and felt that he needed to kill her.[11]
31 December 2009 Masego Kgomo Brian Mangwale Soshanguve, Gauteng 10 Murdered Kgomo was kidnapped for a Muti killing by Brian Mangwala. It is believed that she may have been gang raped before been taken to the sangoma.[12]
3 December 2016 Caroline Ethan, Ryan Ethan Unknown Morningside, Johannesburg 6,10 Still Not Found Ryan and Caroline Ethan were kidnapped on their way to the airport, they are still not yet found and also the kidnapper demanded a ransom.
12 November 2010 Anni Dewani, Shrien Dewani Zola Robert Tongo, Mziwamadoda Qwabe, Xolile Mngeni Gugulethu, Cape Town 28, 31 Murdered, released During a night trip through the Township of Gugulethu, the taxi was hijacked. Husband Shrien was dropped off in neighbouring township of Khayelitsha while Anni was kept. The vehicle was found the next day with the lifeless body of Anni Dewani in the back seat.[13] Shrien was suspected of having masterminded the kidnapping and murder of his wife.[14] At the conclusion of Shrien Dewani's trial in December 2014, he was exonerated, the Western Cape High Court ruling that there was no credible evidence to support the allegations against him, nor to support the allegation that the crime was a premeditated murder for hire.[15]
4 April 2019 Amahle Thabethe Unknown Tsakane, Ekurhuleni 8 Still Not Found She was lured away from playing with her friends one day, and her friends described the man to police, only for them to make excuses.


  1. ^ "Crime Statistics: April 2013 - March 2014". South African Police Service. Archived from the original on 6 March 2015. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  2. ^ "The Shocking Reality". Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  3. ^ a b "THE GLAZER KIDNAPPING". Famous South African Crimes. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  4. ^ a b Selsky, Andrew (18 November 1999). "Soccer coach kidnapped in South Africa - apparently by angry fans". The Independent. Retrieved 9 August 2014.
  5. ^ "'Sherlock star in kidnap terror' – Daily Star's not quite so exclusive exclusive". The Guardian. 12 January 2012. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  6. ^ Khaya Magenu; Ntuntu Dweba (20 March 2015). "KFC and 'cocaine' save man from kidnappers". News24. Retrieved 20 March 2015.
  7. ^ Christopher S. Wren (16 February 1989). "In Storm Over Winnie Mandela, Body Is Identified as Soweto Boy's". New York Times.
  8. ^ Lynsey Chutel (27 February 2015). "South Africa: Parents Find Daughter 17 Years After Kidnap". ABC News. Retrieved 9 March 2014.
  9. ^ "Benedict Cumberbatch Abducted at Gunpoint, He Says in New Interview". People. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  10. ^ Bowater, Donna (12 January 2012). "Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch survived kidnap attempt in South Africa". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  11. ^ "How Leigh Matthews was murdered". Mail And Guardian. 25 July 2005. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  12. ^ Zelda Venter (13 May 2011). "Body parts 'ripped out of her'". Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  13. ^ Neil Lancefield, PA (15 November 2010). "Police hunt honeymoon carjack killers". The Independent. London. Retrieved 12 March 2015.
  14. ^ Tom Pettifor (8 December 2014). "Why did Shrien Dewani case collapse? 7 reasons why he is free". Retrieved 12 March 2015.
  15. ^ "Dewani trial: What really happened and how did police get it so wrong?". 8 December 2014.