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Legal settlement – Cape Town luxury venue Ayepyep to reopen after gang and extortion accusations spat

Legal settlement – Cape Town luxury venue Ayepyep to reopen after gang and extortion accusations spat
Ayepyep in Kloof Street, 20 September 2023. (Photo: Supplied)

The Ayepyep Lifestyle Lounge in Cape Town, marketed as a luxury venue, closed in August after a messy saga involving accusations of extortion. It is set to reopen this week following a legal settlement that saw the family of its murdered co-founder buying a stake in the business.

First, its cofounder was murdered in Gauteng.

Then accusations of threats and dodgy business dealings, involving an alleged gang boss who made counterclaims of his own, surfaced.

It culminated in a court matter, closing its doors and a public plea for government intervention.

But now it seems that the Ayepyep Lifestyle Lounge in Cape Town has put all that behind it.

Reopening and ‘rightful owners’

Following its closure in August, it is now set to reopen at the end of this week, on Friday 22 September.

A statement posted on the venue’s Instagram page, dated 18 September, said: “In a landmark legal settlement, luxury entertainment establishment Ayepyep Lifestyle Cape Town, has returned to its rightful owners, the family of the late DJ Sumbody (Oupa John Sefoka). This victorious moment follows the sale of the DJ’s former business partner, Kagiso Setsetse’s stake in the business, marking a significant step towards restoring the establishment to its former glory.

“In recent months, the establishment has been at the centre of a highly publicised dispute, with Setsetse. The Sefoka family has now secured a 50% ownership stake in Ayepyep Lifestyle Cape Town, a testament to their unwavering commitment to preserving DJ Sumbody’s legacy.”

Sefoka’s brother Koketso said the venue was “a living tribute to his [Sefoka’s] passion, creativity and dedication to the vibrant culture of Cape Town’s social scene.”

The other half

In reaction to the post, some Instagram users were glad the venue was reopening, while others raised safety concerns and asked who owned the other half of the business.

It is understood the other 50% of Ayepyep Cape Town is owned by suspected 28s gang boss Ralph Stanfield’s mother-in-law, Barbara Johnson.

TimesLive reported Setsetse sold half of his one-third of shares to Sefoka’s estate and the other half to Barbara Johnson.

That manoeuvre saw Setsetse resign as Ayepyep Cape Town director and resulted in Sefoka’s family and Barbara Johnson each owning half the business.

Murder and ‘fear’ claim

Daily Maverick has previously reported on controversies surrounding Ayepyep Cape Town.

The Ayepyep brand was created by Sefoka and Setsetse.

It involved the Ayepyep Lifestyle Lounge in Menlyn, Pretoria, as well as the one in Cape Town.

Operations at the Menlyn venue have not been impacted by what has been happening in Cape Town.

Sefoka was murdered in a shooting in Johannesburg on 20 November 2022 in a case in which arrests are yet to be made.

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

Problems relating to Ayepyep started surfacing publicly in May 2023 when Koketso Sefoka told the Sunday World that he was “living in fear” after Setsetse threatened him, which Setsetse denied to Daily Maverick

A Western Cape high court order dated 28 April 2023, also detailed tensions relating to the Cape Town business.

Suspected gang boss’s name surfaces

Ayepyep Lounge Cape Town and Setsetse were listed as applicants in the matter, while respondents included Stanfield, and his wife, Nicole Johnson, who was involved in running the venue.

(Daily Maverick previously reported that Nicole 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.)

Via the Ayepyep court matter, Setsetse alleged that because of threats, he and Sefoka had handed over a third of the company’s shares to Nicole Johnson’s mother Barbara.

News24 reported that in an affidavit in response to Setsetse’s claims, Nicole 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.

The April court order had said Nicole Johnson’s “suspension” as general manager was lifted.

It also said that Setsetse and Stanfield “undertake not to contact each other indirectly or directly” and that Stanfield “undertakes not to attend the venue”.

‘Terrorising gangsters’ allegation

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

The situation ramped up in June this year when Setsetse lodged a criminal complaint with police.

Read more in Daily Maverick: DJ Sumbody and Ayepyep saga — unwitting clubgoers and alleged gangster criminality blend dangerously

Among the allegations Setsetse made to police was that 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”. 

Setsetse had also referred to an incident that happened in February 2021 when a group of men stormed a luxury vehicle dealership in the Cape Town suburb of Milnerton and smashed cars there.

Ten men, among them reportedly Stanfield’s cousin Simon, were arrested for the incident.

Criminal charges against them were later dropped.

Plea to the president

Two months after Setsetse lodged the complaint with police, Ayepyep Cape Town announced on its Instagram page in August that it was temporarily closing its doors.

It made this announcement in a “public plea” addressed to among others, President Cyril Ramaphosa and Police Minister Bheki Cele.

One of the posts also alleged: “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.”

For his part, Stanfield, in an interview with the Sunday World, alleged 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 disputed that reason.)

Counterclaims

Stanfield also claimed that Setsetse previously offered him a partnership, through Nicole 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,” Stanfield was quoted as saying.

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

As of this week, all the posts referring to the spat, and involving allegations against Stanfield, appeared to have been removed from Ayepyep Cape Town’s Instagram page.

The post about its reopening this Friday did not mention Stanfield and implied the “dispute” over the past few months had been between Setsetse and Sefoka’s family.

Broader gang, extortion and violence problems

While the Ayepyep Cape Town saga now seems to have been smoothed over, it has played out in the city where extortion, linked to entertainment venues and construction sites, has been on police radar.

In the 1990s, extortion related to nightclub security being forced on establishments in Cape Town was a problem.

It surged again from around 2017.

Also read in Daily Maverick: The Enforcers – Inside Cape Town’s Deadly Nightclub Battles

Several shootings played out in that renewed, as alleged by police, private security takeover involving a fight for control of bouncer operations in the city centre.

Similar problems were experienced elsewhere.

Daily Maverick previously reported that gangsters were angry with the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa over the allocation of jobs in the security sector, so were using intimidation and extortion to get what they wanted in areas including Bonteheuwel in Cape Town.

Those gangsters were apparently aligned to the 28s gang. DM

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