Let me start by saying to the Korkie family I am sorry for your loss. I know how it feels to lose a loved one and my prayers are with you. Let me say to the rest of you I had nothing to do with the handling of the Korkie kidnapping & hostage event and I am speaking in general now, not specifically about the tragic events which took place this weekend where Mr Korkie and one other, died during a failed rescue attempt. It has happened before you know; in 2012 a UK led force assaulted a place in Nigeria - the two hostages, including an Italian citizen, died during the attack. The Italian Government was not amused and diplomatic protests were lodged. I have yet to see our lot say anything - not that I attach any blame to the Americans for attempting it. These things happen and it is very often a choice between the deep blue sea and the devil. I also feel sorry for Angus Buchan for stating Mr Korkie is coming home, this would give the haters a lot to cheer about.
My company, JKLS Africa & Associates, deals with hostage cases but in a totally unique way. We look at the legalities for the company or the employer. You may not realise this but kidnapping is a serious crime in every country in the world. Hence it is a police problem but the police are not the least interested in your company's good name and reputation. Nor would they want to be involved in a subsequent civil claim against you. Why is that you ask? Entirely different objectives are involved here. Worse, the company stands to lose a lot more than one or two employees, if cynical, I can say to you they can be replaced. No, they stand the excellent chance of losing face and reputation because less than 2% of all companies are geared to deal with a hostage event. I have seen this; they are in a flat spin and have no idea what to do. You ask them for the medical file of the hostage, obviously, we need to know. They don't have one because Mrs Big Shot Human Resources Manager failed in her duty to get one before sending the fellow on his mission. This goes for even the largest security companies and I know for I worked for one and with others through the years. Then you ask, ok, any special codes worked out between you and the hostage? Eh? What you mean? Simply, you are able to speak in codes without anyone knowing about it. What about DNA or fingerprints of the hostage? What about a recent picture of the hostage? Eh or "eish" depending on nationality, is the standard answer accompanied by blank stares. Fair enough, let us get practical, do you have a crisis team in place to deal with this? Do you have an action plan? Will you be able to calm the family down enough that they don't turn on you? Have you considered the legalities? Like the hostage’s salary? It must still be paid you know, the "no work no pay rule" is not applicable (this happened in Nigeria, they wanted to stop paying). What about dealing with the press? Your usual pretty girl will do that? Good luck mate, see how your reputation is hammered.
No, sadly and mostly they have done nothing of the above because they are borderline criminally negligent. When you send a man to work on a building site, you are by law, expected to conduct building operations subject to acceptable safety standards. For example wearing a hard hat, knowing the safety procedures, knowing where the medical kits are etc. Imagine the consequences of not following the rules? Yes, you will regret it in court. Now legally speaking....what is the difference between the above and sending a man into Africa, to a country where foreigners are kidnapped now and then? There is no legal difference whatsoever. You have now failed to prepare him for the worst case scenario. It is that simple. You can be held liable in court and you know what, it is a matter of time, before your will be sued by the hostage or his family for your failures in life. Mark my words, it is coming.
What is sad to me is that no South African company is willing to listen or understand the above, why I would not know but I believe it is arrogance. We know Africa and hence we know all there is to know. Lol, a place like Nigeria will soon make you understand you get South Africa and then you get "Africa." Big difference, you will learn the hard way but how many will die first? They are all on the director's conscious if they have one. Who would know, money is a great motivator to take short cuts.
All my clients are foreigners. Earning USD is always better than ZAR but it stays sad to me. I went to a large accounting house and offered my services, which are unique for we look at both the company and the prospective hostage from a legal and security view, i.e. forensic law. First I got the standard f you email back to say I should apply for a job via their HR centre. Now I have not applied for a job so they had obviously not read or understood a very simple straightforward email. They don't have enough money to employ me anyway, I value my freedom and after this they are heading my own dislike list.
I then spoke to the director, a female accountant, directly. She said to me they have "rigorous measures" in place to deal with emergencies in Africa. I was never a commissioned officer in my police days and thus by definition not a gentleman but a bit insensitive, I started laughing. What she called "rigorous measures" was bullshit of the first order. I know because I have mates there who told me about the lack of measures taken. Take my word, there were no real protection measures, there were no hostage drills and they were not interested anyway. I walked away and I tell you now, no matter what money they offer me, JKLS will never help them. Let their "rigorous measures" help them. I don't care. I have enough others who listen with respect when I help them.
I cannot help anyway after the event; my system is such that we train the company / employer beforehand. The same with the lad who becomes the hostage later on, we cannot train him after he is taken. But before the event there is a lot we can do and did. I am proud of this, my approach is unique and not the usual hostage only focus we find in many other places. How many can tell you how many types of hostage taking events exist? Or what the difference is between the Lima and the Stockholm Syndrome? Or that 30% of all hostages will turn in a week and impimp against fellow hostages? Or that you can communicate with us without anyone even knowing you are doing so? Or that your legal obligations to escape are vastly different than those who are held as POWs? Or what to expect when the Special Forces lads storm the house to rescue you? Well, if you spoke to me for six hours you would know the answer and a lot more besides. Your chances of survival just went up dramatically. Knowledge is power, even a child knows this.
At times I am tired of repeating the same old arguments and running into red tape and an "it will never happen to me" attitude. We spoke about this before where I said a colleague said "not enough have died yet" for this aspect to be taken seriously. It is sad, it is regrettable and it is unnecessary. Perhaps suing is the only solution. It may be the only way the corporate world will wake up and smell the coffee.
Koos Kotze is a former member of the South African Police Force. He served between 1985 and 1991 primarily as a sergeant in the Pretoria Flying Squad. After leaving the Police Force he obtained the law degrees B Iuris & LLB at the University of the Free State (Bloemfontein, South Africa) and was a practicing commercial law attorney for eight years. He also wrote several books on business, law, counter terrorism and security issues. He is a widower and lives in Bloemfontein, South Africa.