The so-called Grindr Gang has been implicated in multiple incidents targeting queer users of dating apps
Police have made a major breakthrough in a series of assaults, extortion and robbery of gay and bisexual men in Gauteng who were targeted through dating apps.
The SAPS announced on Thursday that four suspects had been arrested in connection with these crimes at a restaurant in Parktown, Johannesburg.
“The men who have been targeting the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community would utilise a dating app designed for this community to target and lure victims to secluded places, kidnap and then rob them,” said a statement from the Office of the National Commissioner.
The arrests follow an incident on 12 February in which a 26-year-old man – who had been chatting to one of the alleged suspects – was lured to an area where he was hijacked, kidnapped and robbed of his personal belongings including bank cards.
The suspects allegedly made several purchases with the victim’s bank cards.
After the attack was reported to the Mondeor Police Station, the Anti-Kidnapping Task Team “operationalised information” and arrested the men who were meeting at the restaurant on the same day as the kidnapping.
They were found with the victim’s belongings, including bank cards, wallet, bag and cellphone, said the SAPS.
The victim was rescued and has since been reunited with his family. The victim’s hijacked vehicle, a Mercedes C180, has not yet been recovered.
Mamba was made aware of the arrests on Monday but was asked to not make the news public until an official announcement was released.
The suspects – Thabo Ndlovu, 33, Ndumiso Mahlangu, 27, Sibusiso Tshabalala, 27, and Elson Nyati, 25 – have already appeared in the Booysens Magistrates Court. Each is facing a charge of hijacking, kidnapping and extortion.
The LGBTIQ+ community should remain cautious as there may be other groups committing these crimes
Lerato Phalakatshela, the Human Rights Manager at OUT LGBT Well-being, welcomed the news of the police action against the so-called Grindr Gang.
“This has been a long time coming,” Phalakatshela told Mamba. “We hope this will send out a message to other people who might be committing these horrible crimes against the community.”
Phalakatshela thanked the SAPS and all those who played a part in the arrests and called on the police to “continue working with us to solve and address other crimes that are targeted at the LGBTIQ+ community”.
He, however, added a note of caution. “The LGBTIQ+ community should not be complacent and remain alert when using dating apps as it is very possible that the four alleged suspects may not be the only individuals committing these crimes in Gauteng.”
Phalakatshela urged any victims of the Grindr gang or gangs to come forward by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org “to help ensure that everyone involved in these attacks faces justice”.
For several years, numerous queer men in Gauteng have become victims of criminals who lured them via dating apps like Grindr and then held them captive and robbed them. There has been a significant spike in these cases over the last year.
Mamba recently published a detailed and harrowing account of one of the victims of the Grindr Gang.