A kidnapping victim was rescued in the Gauteng suburb of Mayfield, on the East Rand, during a predawn raid by members of the police special task force on Thursday.
Police arrested six men, including the owner of the house where the victim was held.
The business owner was kidnapped in the Johannesburg suburb of Jeppe nearly two weeks ago. He has been reunited with his family, police spokesperson Brig Athlenda Mathe said.
The wife of the homeowner told TimesLIVE Investigations she had no knowledge of the victim being in her home as she had been at a sangoma initiation school for six weeks.
The woman, who cannot be named as this would identify her husband, said she did not know her husband was allegedly part of a kidnapping syndicate.
“He would come and visit me at the school to drop off money and food for my upkeep, but he never said anything to me. I am shocked and angry,” she said.
She was informed by a community member that police had raided her home.
Neighbours interviewed by TimesLIVE Investigations on Thursday said the house had been a hub of activity in recent days with a variety of expensive vehicles pulling up regularly.
A neighbour, who asked not to be named, said they became suspicious of the activity because the owner of the house, who had moved there with his wife two years ago, did not own any vehicles.
According to the neighbour, the police surrounded the house at about 5am on Thursday.
Heavily armed officers scaled the walls and arrested five men inside the house without firing a shot.
When TimesLIVE Investigations arrived at the scene, six suspects were bound and sitting under a tree under police guard while officers gathered evidence at the property.
The businessman, who sources said was an Ethiopian national, was allegedly kidnapped from his vehicle after leaving his business in Jeppe on January 7. According to a source, his vehicle was found abandoned with the ignition still running after he was apparently forced off the road.
Among the items seized by police were 20 cellphones and three GPS tracking units.
Police also seized five luxury vehicles, some of which are new:
Mathe said a police contingent comprising various units, led by crime intelligence and organised crime members, had been conducting surveillance on the syndicate and have linked them to more than 16 cases of kidnappings in Gauteng where ransom demands were being made.
She said the team led by the special task force and hostage negotiators conducted operations at various addresses in Gauteng including Jeppe, Helderwyk, Brackenhurst and Daveyton before locating the victim.
The suspects are expected to appear in court soon on charges of kidnapping and extortion.
South African police and Interpol members arrested alleged transnational kidnapping kingpin Esmael Nangy earlier this month in Centurion, Gauteng. Nangy, a Mozambican national, is believed to form part of a large Mozambican syndicate behind some of South Africa’s kidnapping and extortion cases.
This piece was written in collaboration with the Henry Nxumalo Foundation.