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Photo of ‘suspected gangster’ posing in Anti-Gang Unit vehicle sparks new probe into cop-criminal collusion

Photo of ‘suspected gangster’ posing in Anti-Gang Unit vehicle sparks new probe into cop-criminal collusion
An apparent gang suspect in an Anti-Gang Unit vehicle. (Photo: Supplied)

A judge warned in October that gangsters had infiltrated Western Cape police structures, sparking two investigations into the claims. Now a photograph of a possible gang suspect posing in an Anti-Gang Unit vehicle has surfaced — and is also being investigated.

The photograph shows a man making hand signals and sitting in the driver’s seat of a clearly marked Anti-Gang Unit (AGU) bakkie.

The photo was apparently taken in Kleinvlei, a suburb in Cape Town that was referred to in a recent and unprecedented high court judgment that details allegations of gangsters infiltrating police in the Western Cape.

Daily Maverick has established that the man, shown in the photograph, may be a member of the 27s gang.

It is understood that the photograph, if legitimate and not manipulated in any way, may not have been linked to any official police operation, hinting at something dubious. This is under investigation.

27s gang sign ‘depicting a gun’

Former policeman Jeremy Vearey is viewed as an expert on gangs and related crimes. He told Daily Maverick that the hand signs the man is making “is the 27-gang sign that depicted how they hold a knife in the old days but has now been hybridised to depict a gun.”

This adds to suspicions that the man may be linked to the 27s gang. 

Daily Maverick has further established that there have been concerns about 27s gangsters targeting police officers.

This makes the photograph — if it is indeed legitimate and a 27s gangster depicted in it — exceptionally worrying with regard to possible gang and cop collusion, especially when viewed along with what happened to Lieutenant-Colonel Charl Kinnear. An AGU member, he was assassinated outside his home in Cape Town in 2020.

At the time of his murder, Kinnear was investigating organised crime suspects, including fellow police officers. Among those arrested in connection with his killing was fellow AGU member Ashley Tabisher.

The photograph is another worrying element linked to the AGU, which an Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) investigation earlier this year found should perhaps be disbanded.

Photo sparked investigation

The photograph has made it on to social media and is now the subject of a South African Police Service (SAPS) investigation — the third recently launched probe into possible dodgy relationships between police and gangsters.

Western Cape police spokesperson Novela Potelwa on Tuesday evening confirmed to Daily Maverick that the photograph “is the subject of a SAPS investigation that was instituted after the picture in question came to the fore.”

Potelwa added: “A senior SAPS official who is not located within the AGU has been appointed to investigate… That investigation, details of which cannot be divulged, is currently under way.”

‘Deeply worrying’

Western Cape MEC for police oversight and community safety, Reagan Allen, told Daily Maverick he was aware of the photograph:

“I have alerted the SAPS management and [am] currently awaiting a full report… It is deeply worrying that a known gangster is so comfortable in a SAPS vehicle. This strengthens the view that in certain instances there are links between SAPS officers and gangsters in the Western Cape…

“For SAPS to become trustworthy and reputable, we have to ensure that incidents such as these do not become the norm. Gangsters should be uncomfortable, whether SAPS is around or not.”

The police investigation into the photograph adds to two other recently launched investigations — one by the SAPS and another by the Western Cape police ombud — into high-level gang-cop collusion warnings contained in the October high court judgment.

‘Gangsters captured cops’

Daily Maverick recently reported extensively on the judgment by Judge Daniel Thulare, handed down on 17 October, that focused on the 28s gang and a faction of it called the Mobsters.

The judgment said evidence in a gang-related case, in which an ex-cop was an accused, suggested members of the 28s gang had corrupted not only low-ranking police officers in the Western Cape, but also the management structure.

One of the most damning sections of the judgment said: “The evidence suggests 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 and lead[s] them in the study of crime, develop[s] crime prevention strategies and decide[s] on tactics and approach to the safety and security of inhabitants of the Western Cape.

“This includes penetration of and access to the sanctity of the reports by specialised units like the Anti-Gang Unit and Crime Intelligence, to the Provincial Commissioner.”

In the judgment, Thulare also referred to Kleinvlei — where the photograph may have been taken — several times.

Thulare said during an initial police project to clamp down on the Mobsters, cops were “implicated” in carrying out some criminal offences.

A police investigator who had looked into this, according to Thulare’s judgment, “could not divulge the details [about cops] because they were not charged yet, but were working at Kleinvlei and were on the payroll of the Mobster gang.”

‘No corruption tolerance’

After Daily Maverick’s initial report on the judgment at the end of October, Western Cape Premier Alan Winde ordered the province’s police ombud to conduct an investigation into the allegations.

Last week Winde announced the ombud’s investigation had revealed that the contents of the judgment were probably true and a fragment of a much broader problem.

“What is clear is that this infiltration likely extends far beyond this particular case, and also that dangerous forces are at play here,” he said.

This week, DM168 reported on several other cases linked to the Western Cape that suggested cop and gang collusion. This included the case of former police colonel Chris Prinsloo who, in 2016, pleaded guilty to selling about 2,000 firearms that were meant to have been destroyed, allegedly to a businessman accused of subsequently smuggling them to Western Cape gangsters.

Meanwhile, national police commissioner Lieutenant-General Fannie Masemola last week said a senior officer was investigating matters relating to Thulare’s judgment, and that “only a very few” individuals may have been involved in criminality.

He also said: “We reiterate our stance of zero tolerance approach to corruption, therefore should any of our own members be found to be wanting, we will not hesitate to take action against our own.” DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Mpumi Bikitsha says:

    With these kinds of stories, coupled with LOADSHEDDING, and the on-going saga at Nasrec, we are such an emotionally abused country. So hard to swallow after years of torturous Apartheid. No place to hide.

  • Frans Flippo says:

    The memories of SAPS officers humiliating, assaulting, and even killing South Africans in the first weeks of the pandemic is still fresh in our memories. Add to this the smoke of corruption which is likely indicative of a much bigger fire that I would be surprised to find limited to just the Western Cape, and it paints a bleak picture of the state of the South African Police Service.

    As someone originally from Europe where a situation like this would immediately result in members of Parliament calling on the responsible minister to answer some difficult questions and call for his immediate resignation if those questions would not be satisfactorily answered, I am shocked that the South African Parliament appears to just sit back and let things like this happen with no accountability required from Bheki Cele.

    Perhaps gangsters should be uncomfortable, but my impression is the Cele is also way too comfortable in his plush ministerial chair and unrightly so.

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