South Africa

ANALYSIS

Fear, violence and extortion in Cape Town — luxury venue Ayepyep closes amid claims of gangsterism and threats

Fear, violence and extortion in Cape Town — luxury venue Ayepyep closes amid claims of gangsterism and threats
Ayepyep in Kloof Street, 16 August 2023. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

The Ayepyep Lifestyle Lounge in Cape Town, marketed as a luxury venue, recently closed its doors following claims and counterclaims about gangsterism, business shares and life insurance. This fits into a matrix of extortion that endangers visitors at some city venues.

Up until about a week ago, the Instagram page of the Ayepyep Lifestyle Lounge in Cape Town had a stream of photographs showing smiling patrons posing with bottles of expensive alcohol and platters of food. 

Now, that stream includes posts incongruent with party scenes — an apology to patrons and a plea for help relating to extreme accusations about gangsters targeting it.

“Ayepyep Lifestyle Cape Town is under threat of an alleged 28s gang leader ‘Ralph Stanfield’ who is currently exerting force in an illegal manner in order to not only gain a stake in the business but to take over the control of the business,” one of the posts alleges.

Ayepyep Cape Town

Post from Ayepyep Cape Town’s Instagram feed. Claims have been made that gangsters are targeting the venue. (Photo: Instagram)

However, Stanfield has made counter-accusations, involving life insurance secured before a murder, that paints Ayepyep founder Kagiso Setsetse as underhanded.

At the centre of the two sets of accusations is a fact — criminality endangers visitors to certain venues in Cape Town.

In the Ayepyep saga, police confirmed they are investigating some of the allegations.

About six years ago, during an alleged nightclub security takeover focused on Cape Town, patrons were wounded in shootings at venues.

‘Shut for now’

In an indirect acknowledgement of such dangers, it was publicly announced about a week ago that Ayepyep Cape Town had been “temporarily closed until further notice due to circumstances beyond our control”.

This had to do with the spat involving Setsetse and Stanfield.

Setsetse, along with his business partner, the DJ and producer Oupa John Sefoka, better known as DJ Sumbody, created the Ayepyep Lifestyle brand, which includes the Ayepyep Lifestyle Lounge in Menlyn, Pretoria, and the one in Cape Town.

Ayepyep Menlyn has apparently not been affected by what is happening in Cape Town, with social media posts showing that events continue there.

The business has been rocked by violence before Sefoka was shot dead in Johannesburg in November 2022.

Firearm issues

As for Setsetse, this year he made accusations that Stanfield and his wife, Nicole Johnson, were trying to dominate Ayepyep Cape Town.

Johnson was the venue’s general manager and she and Stanfield were involved in operating the business.

Daily Maverick has reported that Johnson and Stanfield, who was wounded in a shooting in Johannesburg in 2017, were accused in a criminal case involving allegations that police officers helped create firearm licences for suspects who were not entitled to such documentation.

In the Ayepyep Cape Town saga, a court order, dated 28 April 2023, contained some details about the accusations relating to them.

Kagiso Setsetse during Memorial of DJ Sumbody at Lewende Woord Church on 23 November 2022 in Centurion, South Africa. Oupa John Sefoka, popularly known as DJ Sumbody, died in the early hours of Sunday morning in Johannesburg. (Photo: Gallo Images / Frennie Shivambu)

Private (in)security

Ayepyep Cape Town and Setsetse were listed as applicants, while respondents included Stanfield and Johnson.

Setsetse claimed Sefoka introduced him to Stanfield, who was to deal with security at the venue.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Beyond DJ Sumbody’s murder – business tensions, underworld fears and a court order

Among Setsetse’s allegations was that in April, pay points where patrons’ money was received were switched so that the money was channelled to an individual connected to Stanfield and Johnson.

Setsetse claimed that R3,474,706.75 was stolen in this manner.

Dispute over shares

He also alleged that because of threats, he and Sefoka handed over a third of the company’s shares to Johnson’s mother.

The court order effectively banned Stanfield from going to Ayepyep Cape Town.

News24 reported that in an affidavit in response to Setsetse’s claims, Johnson said her appointment as general manager and the allocation of shares had been agreed upon and that she had given the shares to her mother.

She alleged Setsetse’s claim that he was fearful of her and Stanfield was “false” and countered that he had made unauthorised cash withdrawals from the business.

Ralph Stanfield. (Photo: Gallo Images / Die Burger)

‘Gangsters stormed the premises’

In June, Setsetse lodged a criminal complaint with police about what was happening at Ayepyep Cape Town.

On Wednesday, 16 August, Western Cape police spokesperson Colonel Andrè Traut, told Daily Maverick: “The criminal case you are referring to is currently under investigation and arrests are yet to be made.

“Due to the nature of investigations pertaining to serious cases, further be advised that the finer aspects of the matter cannot be disclosed to third parties.”

Among the allegations that Setsetse made to police was that there was “a situation” two weeks after Ayepyep Cape Town opened in 2021.

“Approximately 10 gangsters stormed into the premises, terrorised customers, throwing things off the tables and conducting themselves in an extremely threatening manner,” he claimed.

At the weekend, Sunday World reported on “an exclusive interview” with Stanfield.

In it, he backed Setsetse’s claim that gangsters had targeted Ayepyep Cape Town and said they warned Setsetse and Sefoka that they were not allowed to operate the business unless they paid a protection fee to two organised crime bosses.

According to Stanfield, he was indirectly approached to provide the Ayepyep duo with security at the Cape Town venue.

Life insurance

Stanfield went on to make some unsettling claims against Setsetse.

He said Setsetse took out “a R15-million life cover policy” on Sefoka about a year before Sefoka’s murder, but it was not paid out because detectives were trying to obtain a statement from Setsetse. (Setsetse has disputed that reason.)

Stanfield also claimed that he travelled to Johannesburg in 2019 where Sefoka and Setsetse offered him a partnership, through Johnson, in Ayepyep Cape Town.

“The terms of agreement was that Nicole takes care of the overall operations and all three directors, being Nicole, DJ Sumbody and Kagiso, get a salary of R150,000 monthly and split R1.5-million at the end of every year,” he was quoted as saying.

“At first DJ Sumbody had tabled 50% for Nicole, which I turned down and requested that the directors share evenly.”

Setseste confirmed to Sunday World he had taken out a life cover policy on Sefoka and said Sefoka did the same with him. 

“It is not what [Stanfield] says,” Setsetse countered, “he is painting that story because he is trying to tarnish my name.”

Threats and fear

In May, Sunday World reported that Sefoka’s brother Koketso was “living in fear” and claimed Setsetse had threatened him.

Setsetse has denied this to Daily Maverick. He said he was in Dubai and feared returning to South Africa as he believed, “I will be killed immediately … The underworld has serious contacts in most authorities’ ranks and they would know I’m in the country, thus putting my life at risk.”

Ayepyep Cape Town is situated in the city centre, alongside other businesses including shops, offices and restaurants.

It is a pedestrian-heavy area. 

While no shootings have been reported in the area, which Stanfield pointed out in his interview with Sunday World, the overall Ayepyep Cape Town saga points to dangers involved with certain venues in the city.

Read more in Daily Maverick: The Enforcers – Inside Cape Town’s Deadly Nightclub Battles

From about 2017, extortion related to security being forced on nightclubs in Cape Town, which had been a problem back in the 1990s, came into focus again.

Several shootings played out in the renewed saga, as alleged by police, private security takeover.

Setsetse’s apparent fears about returning to South Africa and putting his “life at risk” can therefore perhaps be applied to patrons entering some venues, like Ayepyep Cape Town. 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 from the Daily Maverick Shop here.

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • jcdville stormers says:

    Where is SARS and SAPS,seems like Stanfield and his wife has immunity.

    • Gordon Bentley says:

      It also sounds as if there are people higher up who are protecting there incomes and providing the immunity.
      Here we go again – corruption at the highest levels. Why do we the taxpayers tolerate this? The government must take immediate action.

  • Johan Buys says:

    Why are all virtually all the hot hip places in CPT invariably tied to organized crime? Drugs, bouncers, prostitutes, protection rackets, tax dodges, fraud, illegal alcohol…. Sounds like prohibition era NY. SARS can solve this like the IRS solved Al Capone

  • Yanga Ngcwama says:

    Cyril Ramaphosa has lost all control as head of state.

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