OP-ED

City of Assassination: Six striking shootings over six months rock Cape Town

By Caryn Dolley 4 June 2020

Friends and family celebrates the life of South African gangster and leader of Hard Living gang Rashied Staggie on December 21, 2019 in Cape Town, South Africa. Rashied Staggie was shot and killed in Salt River on December 13th. The program started with a body viewing in London Road, Salt River. Afterwards, a church service was held for him at the Jubilee Community Church because he had converted to Christianity. Subsequently the body of the 56 year old was taken to the Green Sports ground in Manenberg which is a stronghold for Hard Livings gang for the community to pay their last respects. Finally he was buried at the cemetery in Durbanville. (Photo by Gallo Images/Brenton Geach)

The Enforcers: Inside Cape Town’s Deadly Nightclub Battles was published in June 2019. The book delves into just how deep-rooted and entwined Cape Town’s criminal networks are. It also explains that embedded toxic elements are impossible to totally snuff out. A year has gone by since the book’s publication and overlapping decades-old crime circles have continued grinding against each other, causing friction and sparks of violence which ensure the city remains in a bloody grip. Here is an exploration of six more recent shootings and how these fit into a broader landscape of crime.

Each month for half a year, there has been a reverberating shooting in the Western Cape, South Africa’s gang epicentre.

Each of these six shootings has sparked fears of retaliatory attacks, of who will be targeted next and of unexpected allegiance switching which could cause seismic shifts in gangland and set off further eruptions of violence.

These shootings are by no means the only attempted and successful hits that have been carried out over six months, there have been many more, but these will be focused on to show links and overlaps between various figures and incidents.

All but one of the shootings occurred in Cape Town – the sixth having happened in a fishing village about 80 minutes outside the city.

In April 2020, as Covid-19 increasingly impacted on South Africa, gangsterism in the country was given a glossy overcoat in the form of a news article.

A UK publication reported that South Africa’s gangs had agreed to a ceasefire.

Unsurprisingly, this was not the reality that played out in Cape Town.

The city’s organised crime scene consists of densely layered criminal networks which bleed into each other and which are undoubtedly linked to international groups.

Policing these slithery systems is difficult – over decades there have been consistent claims of some cops working with, not against, suspects.

To try to grasp what is happening in Cape Town’s criminal networks, one needs to understand the broader landscape and foundation beneath it.

This context also provides a base to plot the six shootings against.

The run-up – nightclub security

(This aspect is the central theme of The Enforcers: Inside Cape Town’s Deadly Nightclub Battles)

In the 1990s underworld kingpin Cyril Beeka headed nightclub security operations across the city.

But some police officers suspected these operations were shaped by intimidation and violence and were a front supported by apartheid-era cops. They believed that control of club security meant control of illicit substances, including drugs, that could be traded in these establishments.

Beeka was suspected of operating with, among others, then-Hard Livings gang boss Rashied Staggie and Italian businessman Vito Palazzolo, who at the time was based in Cape Town and was believed to be a high-ranking member of the criminal organisation Cosa Nostra.

Palazzolo was suspected of having government officials on his payroll and was wanted in Italy for Mafia association.

In 2011 the underworld experienced a deep jolt – Beeka was shot dead on 21 March in Bellville South. (Driving him at the time was Dobrasav Gavric, who was wanted for murder in Serbia and who had been using the alias Sasa Kovacevic to conceal his true identity in South Africa.)

The last person Beeka had visited  was Jerome “Donkie” Booysen, who an investigator once named as a head of the Sexy Boys gang and a suspect in Beeka’s murder case, but nothing came of these accusations.

After Beeka’s killing, nightclub security in Cape Town was dominated by figures including Jerome Booysen, as well as controversial businessmen Mark Lifman and Andre Naude.

Then in March 2017 businessman Nafiz Modack, who had been close to Beeka and who ended up on police radar as a suspected underworld figure, muscled his way into this arena.

According to the crimefighting unit the Hawks, the group that had been heading nightclub security – Jerome Booysen (who went on to survive six attempts on his life), Lifman and Naude – therefore became Modack’s rivals.

Modack was alleged to have joined forces with men including a veteran bouncer who had before worked with Beeka, and Jerome Booysen’s brother Colin Booysen, who was widely believed to have partnered with Modack after having a fallout with Jerome.

Modack, Colin Booysen and three others were arrested late in 2017 on extortion charges relating to security at a restaurant. They were acquitted in February 2020.

Violent incidents had pocked the city while this court case unfolded – one of these was the murder of Carl Lakay, one of Modack’s co-accused in the extortion case, in Goodwood in August 2018.

The Terribles

In 2019 Horatio “Voudie” Solomon went on trial with 11 others in the Western Cape High Court.

Horatio Solomon is the nephew of former 28s gang boss Ernest “Ernie Lastig” Solomon.

Illustrating wider links and deep roots in this arena is the case of Community Outreach, better known as Core, a now-defunct organisation which in the mid-1990s was ostensibly aimed at stunting gangsterism but which some later pointed to as a smokescreen for crime.

According to a 2003 court judgment which made reference to Core, Ernest Solomon, together with others including Rashied Staggie and Jerome Booysen, were among those who had been involved in it. (Years after Core disintegrated, in 2011, Ernest Solomon was again involved in so-called peace talks with gangsters.)

In the Western Cape High Court in 2019, it emerged that Horatio Solomon was suspected of several crimes including murder.

A summary of facts in the case said he was also accused of being second-in-command of the Terrible Josters gang in the province and its leader in several Cape Town suburbs including Delft and Elsies River.

“The Terrible Josters are constantly engaged in gang wars in the areas where drug dealing operations take place and once opposing gangs are annihilated or surrender, remaining rival gang members (are) incorporated into the gang,” the state’s amended summary of facts said.

Other court documents said a witness in the case had alleged the Terrible Josters had a membership of at least 10,000.

For his part, Horatio Solomon denied being a member of any criminal gang.

One of the more riveting claims that emerged from the case again highlighted interconnected crime networks.

Entwined networks

This claim looped back to the March 2011 assassination of Cyril Beeka.

According to the state’s amended summary of facts, it was claimed that the Terrible Josters were involved in the 2013 murder of Leon Davids, the man widely rumoured to have assassinated Beeka.

An accused in the Terrible Josters case had allegedly contacted a state witness “and informed him that he received an instruction that Leon Davids (alias Leontjie) must be killed.”

The state witness was told to go to an associate’s home to get a firearm and bicycles so that he and another man could carry out the murder.

It was alleged that at that home “he was called aside and told that the reason that Leontjie must be killed was because he and another person had murdered Cyril Beeka who was linked to their top leader and had fed him information on a competing gang leader.”

The state witness and second man did not find Davids where he was expected to be, at a braai in Belhar, an area widely known as Sexy Boys gang territory, so the murder could not be carried out.

The duo were later allegedly told “the mission” would instead be given to Horatio Solomon.

Davids was murdered on 9 October 2013.

“A post-mortem was conducted on the body of the deceased and the cause of death was found to be multiple gunshots wounds. During the shooting two bystanders were also shot,” the state’s amended summary of facts said.

The name of Horatio Solomon’s uncle – Ernest Solomon – had surfaced several times during the Terrible Josters-focused trial.

It was reported that a witness had claimed in court that Ernest Solomon had actually ordered Davids’s murder as retaliation for Beeka’s killing.

Whether the claims relating to Beeka’s murder are true or not, the fact that the claims were made in the first place hint at something afoot in gang circles – if true, perhaps there was a genuine want for justice to be carried out, if false, accusations can be made for various reasons, including to tarnish someone’s reputation or to deflect from the truth.

In December 2019 Horatio Solomon was released from custody on bail under strict conditions.

Within six months both him and his uncle were wounded in separate shootings which were part of a broader spate of attacks.

Six shootings, six months

13 December 2019 – Former Hard Livings gang boss Rashied Staggie was shot dead in Salt River in the very same street a mob had murdered his brother Rashaad 23 years earlier. In the 1990s Staggie had been under investigation along with Beeka and Palazzolo, who in turn was suspected of heading up Cosa Nostra. There were suspicions among sources with ties to the underworld and policing that both Staggie and Beeka were informants for (possibly rogue) intelligence structures, which brings into question the role these structures play and who they serve.

5 January 2020 – Timothy (also known as Tim) Lotter was shot dead in a bakkie in Goodwood. Lotter had owned the company Extreme Measures Security and had operated in areas including Cape Town’s city centre. His name seemed to have come up during bail proceedings relating to Nafiz Modack in December 2017. A police investigator had testified that Colin Booysen had once warned that someone by the name of Tim needed to be careful because Colin Booysen knew he was “trying to get support from the Flats.” Lotter had been a head of the Satudarah motorcycle group in South Africa. In 2018 Satudarah was outlawed in the Netherlands for criminal links. When Cape Town’s nightclub security scene started heating up again in 2017, rumours had surfaced that motorcycle groupings were being roped in to bolster some of those in the industry.

12 February 2020 – A civil attorney was wounded in a shooting in Gardens. At the time there were suspicions within the legal fraternity that the shooting was a case of mistaken identity and that another lawyer, who had represented suspected underworld figures, had been the actual target.

15 March 2020 – Horatio Solomon, out on bail for roughly three months at this point, was wounded and his 13-year-old daughter murdered in a shooting in Durbanville. Had he been killed, the unfinished Terrible Josters trial, in which he was the main accused and in which claims relating to Beeka had surfaced, would have been deeply impacted.

9 April 2020 – Attorney William Booth was shot at in an attempted hit outside his home in the city bowl. He was not wounded. Booth’s clients had included suspected underworld figures. This was the sixth attack on a member of the legal fraternity in less than four years. (Read more about these attacks here.)

11 May 2020 – Ernest “Ernie Lastig” Solomon and his son were wounded in a shooting in the fishing village of Hawston. A third man was killed in this incident which reportedly happened at a nightclub, Club Octopus. There were suspicions that tension within the Solomon family may have led to the shooting, which may or may not have been the case. Meanwhile, it is understood Horatio Solomon’s release on bail was reversed late in April as he broke conditions relating to it.

A more succinct distillation of the shootings (aside from the two legal fraternity attacks) is that:

Rashied Staggie (assassinated December 2019) had, via Core, previously been linked to Ernest “Ernie Lastig” Solomon. Staggie had also been linked to Cyril Beeka (assassinated March 2011) who had been involved in the city’s nightclub security scene in the 1990s, when it was synonymous with allegations of violence and intimidation. Timothy Lotter (assassinated January 2020) was involved in the same industry roughly two decades later when these allegations were still associated with it. Horatio Solomon (wounded March 2020) was on trial for several crimes and claims were made that he played a role in the killing of Leon Davids (assassinated October 2013), the man rumoured to have killed Beeka. Claims were also made that Ernest Solomon (wounded May 2020) had ordered Davids’s murder.

The Enforcers: Inside Cape Town’s Deadly Nightclub Battles described the city’s crime scene as cyclical and generational.

Recent shootings have added more weight to these words.

Ageing and overlapping crime circles, sometimes just claims relating to these circles, are keeping Cape Town in a deadlock of violence.

If the past six months are anything to go by, the city will be the scene of more meticulously planned shootings in the coming months.

If the past three decades are anything to go by, this will be the case for decades to come. DM

The Cape Town legal fraternity attacks

There have been several attacks on members of Cape Town’s legal fraternity. This does not necessarily mean that lawyers are involved in dodgy dealings.

They could be targeted simply because of who they legally represent and could be viewed as a threat to those they may have incriminating information against.

This is how the attacks have unfolded:

7 November 2016 – Attorney Noorudien Hassan was murdered in a shooting in Lansdowne. He had represented suspects with alleged links to gangs. He had also been on a legal team representing a suspect in a case focused on firearms meant to have been in police custody, but which were instead channelled to gangsters. This became known as the guns-to-gangs case.

30 October 2018 – Advocate Pete Mihalik was murdered in a shooting in Green Point. Mihalik had legally represented several suspected underworld figures. Mihalik had also worked with Hassan and had been on the legal team representing the suspect in the so-called guns-to-gangs case.

19 May 2019 – Attorney David Mbazwana was murdered in a shooting Khayelitsha in what may have been a robbery gone wrong. He had reportedly represented, among other, figures with suspected links to the underworld.

1 December 2019 – Attorney Vernon Jantjies was shot dead in Lentegeur, Mitchells Plain. Jantjies had legally represented a suspect in a case involving suspected drug dealer Fadwaan “Vet” Murphy.

12 February 2020 – A civil attorney was wounded in a shooting in Gardens. At the time there were suspicions within the legal fraternity that the shooting was a case of mistaken identity and that another lawyer, who had represented suspected underworld figures, had been the actual target.

9 April 2020 – Attorney William Booth was shot at in an attempted hit outside his home in the city. He was not wounded. Booth’s clients had included suspected underworld figures. DM

This article was first published on Caryn Dolley: Investigating beyond the Headlines.

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