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SAPS IN CRISIS: ANALYSIS

Cops and Mobsters — the many murky claims of Western Cape police officers cosying up to gangsters

Cops and Mobsters — the many murky claims of Western Cape police officers cosying up to gangsters
From left: The Anti-Gang Unit at Bishop Lavis Magistrates’ Court (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach) | A gangster shows off his prison gang tattoos. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed) | Hanover Park gang graffiti. (Photo: Supplied) | A gang member brandishes a loaded pistol. (Photo Brenton Geach)

There have been suspicions over the years that police in SA’s gangsterism capital, the Western Cape, are colluding with gangs — leaking information, plotting murders and running smear campaigns. A recent high court judgment adds weight to such theories.

In January 2016, Nathaniel Moses, the suspected head of a group of hitmen, was murdered in the Cape Town suburb of Strand.

Strange stories subsequently surfaced in police circles: that the Mobsters, a faction of the 28s gang which Moses allegedly led, had corrupt cops on their side, that some of those officers were involved in running a nightclub with the Mobsters in Strand, and that firearms were being funnelled to the gang’s footsoldiers by way of police officers.

These stories never publicly solidified into anything more than loose suspicions.

Until recently, that is.

Daily Maverick last week reported that a Western Cape High Court judgment by Judge Daniel Thulare, dated 17 October, said that evidence in an organised crime case linked to the Mobsters suggested that the 28s gang had captured low-ranking South African Police Service (SAPS) officers as well as police bosses.

The judgment said: “The senior management of the SAPS in the province has been penetrated to the extent that the 28 gang has access to the table where the Provincial Commissioner of the SAPS in the Western Cape sits with his senior managers.”

According to evidence, the judgment found, gangsters also obtained Crime Intelligence and Anti-Gang Unit reports.

Thulare’s judgment is unprecedented in that it marks the first time suspected links between police officers and gangsters are detailed in depth in a document that is accessible to the public.

Political strategy

Last week, while the Western Cape police said its legal services department was looking at the judgment, the province’s premier, Alan Winde, ordered an ombud investigation into its contents to determine if police officers were working with gangsters. 

cops and mobsters graphicIt was not the first time a Western Cape premier had tackled the issue. 

Here we unravel an extensive web of cop collusion suspicions — and political matters — that developed in the runup to the judgment. 

Seven years ago, former premier Helen Zille wrote: “Could it be that there is a deliberate political strategy, involving high-ranking police officers and politicians, to ensure that gangs, drugs and crime continue to destabilise the Western Cape?

“It is critical to answer this question for the sake of the people in this province who live under the reign of terror of the gang and drug lords.”

Zille also referenced a (now former) Western Cape Crime Intelligence officer, understood to be Paul Scheepers.

She said: “Three of his informers had provided him with sensational information asserting the involvement of high-ranking police officers in corruption, and of links between the drug trade, gangs, and politics in the Western Cape.”

Arrested Crime Intelligence officer

There were suspicions that the claims Scheepers’ informers made were against former gang-busting cop Jeremy Vearey, who was controversially fired from the police service in May last year. (Further details are documented in Dolley’s book To the Wolves: How Traitor Cops Crafted South Africa’s Underworld.)

Scheepers has an intriguing past.

He was arrested back in 2015 — one of the charges he faced was that he illegally acquired an interception device known as a “grabber”.

Scheepers was also at the centre of a spat in which the DA was accused of spying on the ANC and vice versa.

For his part, Vearey has insisted that Crime Intelligence officers, using gangsters and politicians, were working against him to derail investigations he was conducting.

In the year following Scheepers’ arrest, a series of events resulted in rattling claims emerging about Western Cape police officers.

That year — 2016 — was when Moses was murdered.

An affidavit, which some police officers viewed as questionable, surfaced after his killing, referencing his murder and dubious police activities.

‘Questionable’ affidavit

The affidavit, dated February 2016 and deposed by Sylvano Hendricks, a transgender woman also going by the name Queeny Madikizela-Malema, who had spent time in jail, was leaked to the media.

It made an array of allegations.

Some were against Vearey and were along the lines that he was working with an alleged Western Cape gang boss.

But aspects of the affidavit were brought into question.

A section of a stamp on it stated “Department of Community Safety Western Cape”, implying that it was linked to the office of Dan Plato, who was the Western Cape’s community safety MEC at the time.

But it later emerged the stamp had been discontinued and should never have been used and that the advocate who signed off on the affidavit was a former police officer who had been found guilty of manipulating crime statistics.

Vearey later claimed he believed the allegations against him in the affidavit actually stemmed from Crime Intelligence.

Doubt was therefore cast over the affidavit that seemed to connect the Mobsters and the Moses murder case to politics and police officers.

Guns-to-gangs investigation

Back in December 2013, Vearey and his colleague Peter Jacobs launched Project Impi, which became known as the guns-to-gangs investigation.

This focused on allegations that police officers were involved in creating fraudulent gun licences for, and smuggling firearms that were meant to be destroyed to gangsters (including members of the 28s) in the Western Cape.

Daily Maverick understands Project Impi investigations also focused on some firearms the Mobsters had and whether police officers had channelled the weapons to them. 

In June 2016, roughly six months after Moses was murdered and while conducting the guns-to-gangs investigation, Vearey and Jacobs were suddenly and effectively demoted, and Project Impi lost its clout.

That same month, former police officer Chris Prinsloo was sentenced to an effective 18 years in jail for selling firearms that ended up with gang members in the Western Cape.

This saga takes a more sinister turn.

More smear campaign claims

A few months later, in November 2016, Noorudien Hassan was murdered outside his home in Lansdowne, Cape Town.

He was an attorney who had dealt with several gang-related matters and represented an accused in a court case that resulted from Project Impi investigations.

The following year, Vearey claimed to this journalist that he knew about a Crime Intelligence officer who once visited Hassan about claims to be concocted against him (Vearey).

Vearey believed that there was a plan, involving Crime Intelligence officers in the Western Cape, to discredit him because of critical investigations he was conducting that could expose criminality within the police service.

In 2017, it also emerged that an investigation diary and documents that could expose an informant in Project Impi were possibly leaked, via a Crime Intelligence officer, to Hassan.

News24 reported that the allegedly leaked paperwork was found in Hassan’s office after he was killed.

The defence in the Project Impi case denied getting hold of the documents without the State’s consent, claiming that the documents could have been discreetly handed over by Crime Intelligence. (Further details are documented in Dolley’s book, The Enforcers: Inside Cape Town’s Deadly Nightclub Battles.) 

‘Infiltrated’ Anti-Gang Unit 

Towards the end of 2018, the Anti-Gang Unit (AGU) in the Western Cape was launched. 

This happened roughly six months before a general election, hinting that the unit was a gimmick to woo voters.

Daily Maverick understands that at the time, a sensitive document detailing which police officers were in the AGU was leaked from within police ranks.

This meant that gang suspects could potentially see exactly who would be targeting them.

Andre Lincoln, a now retired major-general, headed the AGU — in the 1990s, he investigated links between suspected crooks and state figures.

Lieutenant-Colonel Charl Kinnear was a member of the AGU.

Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations

Among those he investigated were criminals and colleagues — in a situation reminiscent of Project Impi, cops were arrested in 2020 for allegedly creating fraudulent gun licences for suspects.

A few months after those arrests, in September 2020, Kinnear was assassinated outside his home in Bishop Lavis, a Cape Town suburb that happens to be a stronghold of the 28s gang.

His murder meant cases involving police officers arrested for getting gun licences to suspects could collapse.

Among those arrested in connection with Kinnear’s killing was Ashley Tabisher, also a member of the AGU.

Another suspect arrested for Kinnear’s murder was Nafiz Modack, who Kinnear had been investigating.

This case also extends to Crime Intelligence and other police corruption claims.

‘Rogue’ unit and underworld  

In December 2018, roughly two years before his assassination, Kinnear wrote a letter of complaint to his bosses, saying that a rogue unit of police officers, with ties to Crime Intelligence, was operating in the Western Cape and working against him and certain colleagues.

This was similar to concerns Vearey had voiced about Crime Intelligence police officers concocting a smear campaign against him.

In his complaint, Kinnear claimed some of the officers were dubiously connected to Modack.

Daily Maverick has published articles about an Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) report relating to Kinnear’s assassination that was subsequently and controversially classified.

The report found that a “rogue” unit of police officers in the Western Cape, linked to Crime Intelligence, indeed existed, which validated Kinenar’s complaint.

Animosity among police bosses

The “rogue” unit, Ipid found, “created further animosity amongst leadership, sowing division” in the Western Cape police.

Ipid’s report further said: “This may have created a perfect opportunity for underworld syndicates and figures such as Nafiz Modack to infiltrate SAPS to monitor the movement of key role players.”

Ipid recommended that four of the unit’s members should face departmental charges.

The fate of those cops could be discussed in Parliament during the second week of November.

Claims of police corruption, linked to the 2015 arrest of ex-Crime Intelligence officer Paul Scheepers, as well as to the Moses murder case and Kinnear, have been bolstered by the October 17 judgment.

It has shone a necessary spotlight on deep-rooted suspicions, which are, infuriatingly, nothing new, of police officers partnering with criminals in the Western Cape, where countless residents find themselves in the path of gangster-held guns.

The judgment simply cannot be ignored. DM

Caryn Dolley has spent years tracing the footprints of drug kingpins from across the world. In her latest book, Clash of the Cartels, Dolley provides unprecedented insight into how specific drug cartels and syndicates have operated via South Africa, becoming embroiled in deadly violence in the country and bolstering local criminal networks. Available at the Daily Maverick Shop here.

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • virginia crawford says:

    Another failure of the Intelligence Services. These very serious allegation should have triggered a crisis years ago, and the facts that it hasn’t raises questions.

  • Cunningham Ngcukana says:

    The matter is very serious and paints a picture of Latin American states law enforcement agencies working with drug cartels and gangsters and it would not be surprising to find elements of the NPA and the judiciary in this web. What is more concerning is that Minister of Police with a corruption finding by the Public Protector and the Deputy Minster of Intelligence with a notoriety of stealing, do not even know about this which threatens not only the criminal justice system but state security. The revamping of the SAPS from the Minister and the Commissioner is a matter of urgency or this country will become a narco state very soon with connections to political parties. It then becomes difficult to address the cancer as it would spread all over the country as elements of this corruption are present in the Eastern Cape without any action. The retail politics that are expensive are very susceptible to drug money with corruption within the
    criminal justice system. The ANC that has been using money looted from the public funds to run its campaigns, may soon turn to drug money at different levels and other political parties who have no access to state resources may turn to drug money creating a vicious circle with political protection rackets and there
    will be no turning back for the country. This matter requires urgent attention.

  • Sam Shu says:

    This sounds like Mexico where journalists that even report these story’s are murdered. It’s extremely scary and fits with the narrative in “The Highwaymen” podcast from Richard Poplack and Diana Neville. I am concerned for all their safety. These monsters clearly play for keeps

    • Cunningham Ngcukana says:

      We took lightly reports of Fransman getting Zuma to meet with Western Cape gangsters and looking back this was very serious for the President of a country even to be part of a function with gangsters! Our country once is designated a narco state it means that over and above enhanced due diligence that goes with greylisting it would be a flagged country whose commercial transactions may include proceeds of criminality! One questions whether business is very aware of these dangers and the possibility of investment in foreign instruments is going to be made far difficult. We must say thank you to the ANC!

  • Patrick O'Shea says:

    Treason is the word. How cheaply their souls were sold.

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