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Cape Town mayor takes on construction mafia, launches anti-extortion campaign and shifts millions to security

Cape Town mayor takes on construction mafia, launches anti-extortion campaign and shifts millions to security
Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis has launched a new city-wide anti-extortion campaign. (Photo: Velani Ludidi)

The City of Cape Town has set up an anti-extortion hotline as part of a new plan to tackle crimes related to construction projects in the city. Arrests are expected soon.

A 24-hour hotline to report extortion is part of a campaign that Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis, with some of his committee members, has launched in an effort to tackle related crimes.

Companies wanting to do business with the city in the construction sector will come under closer scrutiny.

The campaign’s slogan is: “Enough is Enough! Genoeg is Genoeg! Kwanele!

construction extortion

Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis launched a new city-wide Anti-Extortion Campaign during a visit to a construction mafia-hit MyCiTi depot project in Khayelitsha on Thursday, 12 October. He was joined by Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security JP Smith and Mayco Member for Urban Mobility Rob Quintas, and other mayoral committee members, delegates from the city’s executive management team and local representatives. (Photo: Supplied)

It was launched on Thursday in Khayelitsha at a MyCiti depot construction site which has been affected by extortion.

24-hour hotline, billboards

As part of the campaign, the municipality has set up a 24-hour hotline and rewards system to encourage residents to help authorities tackle extortion.

Reporting to the hotline – 0800 00 6992 – can be done anonymously.

Billboards are also set to be rolled out along major routes explaining how to report crimes relating to extortion.

‘Tens of millions on security’

Speaking at the launch, Hill-Lewis said: “We are spending tens of millions… I think the figure this year is R55-million in additional security, not total security, but additional security – just to protect those sites so that construction can continue.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: Cape Town tops up security budget by R15m to protect housing construction sites from gangsters

He said people, including contractors, were afraid to report extortionists and, to combat that, a useful guide had been given to local councillors that explained how conversations that could escalate to extortion began.

“We have also made amendments to our contracts for every contractor, that you may not claim any construction delays unless you have reported the matter (extortion) to the police and can provide a case number.”

The problem is so bad, said the mayor, that some tenders had not received any bidders because construction contractors feared they would be targeted after they had been awarded tenders.

Cape Town, like other parts of the country, has seen a spike in extortion-related crimes at construction sites. Some of those incidents resulted in violent deaths.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Murderous construction mafias have brought many companies to their knees – with SAPS help, the fightback has started

Extortion in the city extends to other sectors, with workers along railway tracks and even in refuse collection trucks being targeted.

Murder, disruptions, delays

The city said several projects had been hit by extortion. They include:

  • ACSA Housing Construction (Delft): Work is disrupted, with reported cases of attempted murder, murder and arson.
  • Delft select roadworks: Work is disrupted, with a reported case of murder.
  • MyCiti construction site (Spine Road, Khayelitsha): Work is going ahead after extortion-related delays.
  • Beacon Valley housing in Mitchells Plain: Work is disrupted, with reported cases of intimidation and arson.
  • Lentegeur Pedestrian Bridge in Mitchells Plain: Work is proceeding following reported cases of theft and intimidation.
  • Eastridge, Mitchells Plain, high-voltage cable relocation: Work is proceeding after disruptions.
  • Bishop Lavis roadworks: Work has been disrupted, with reported cases of intimidation.
  • Edward Street in Ottery: Work is proceeding after disruptions.

R11-billion infrastructure budget

The city has an R11-billion infrastructure budget for 2023/2024 – 73% of which is said will directly benefit lower-income households.

“We have staff and contractors working on the ground more than ever, especially in vulnerable communities impacted by crime,” Hill-Lewis said.

“We cannot afford project delays due to criminal activity. That’s why the ‘Enough’ campaign aims to increase public reporting of extortion activity, with specialised city investigators feeding this information into the South African Police Service’s anti-extortion unit.”

‘Imminent arrests’

construction extortion smith

Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security JP Smith. (Photo: Velani Ludidi)

Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security JP Smith said construction mafia-related arrests were imminent.

He was cautious to not give out details that might compromise investigations.

“I don’t [want to]  give too much insight into the state of the investigations, but I can tell you that those have proceeded very desirably and very rapidly in the last couple of months.

“We have made great progress in the last month. You will be seeing some arrests in the next week or two,” he said.

Both Smith and Hill-Lewis complained about the lack of enthusiasm from the country’s Crime Intelligence division to assist in tackling extortionists.

Corruption investigation

Meanwhile, the city has faced other problems in the human settlements arena.

Earlier this year, Daily Maverick reported that alleged 28s gang boss Ralph Stanfield’s name cropped up in an investigation relating to city councillor Malusi Booi, who in March was fired as Mayco member for human settlements after his office was raided during an investigation into fraud and corruption.

Read more in Daily Maverick: SAPS investigating allegations Cape Town mayco member Malusi Booi ‘took cash from gangsters’

Daily Maverick also reported that the City of Cape Town was doing business with Stanfield’s wife, Nicole Johnson, who is the director of Glomix House Brokers.

(Stanfield and Johnson were arrested in their home in the upmarket Cape Town suburb of Constantia on 29 September and face various charges.)

Companies under heavier scrutiny

On Thursday, at the anti-extortion campaign launch, Hill-Lewis told Daily Maverick that police had not provided him with an update on the investigation into Booi.

He said the municipality would in future be more cautious in doing due diligence concerning company directors and officials suspected to be on the wrong side of the law.

“When someone bids [for a tender] using a shelf or a new company name, it is very difficult to tell if people associated with those companies are up to no good elsewhere in the country.” DM

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  • Graeme de Villiers says:

    Fantastic initiative. I hope this good mayor stays safe and vigilant. This has the potential to upset a lot of people with powerful connections. Makes me wonder about the lack of enthusiasm from the Crime Intelligence division – perhaps something to hide?

    • Trevor Pope says:

      Lots to hide, but also their priorities lie elsewhere, like spying on politicians. A lot of people’s jobs depend on the ANC keeping control next year.

  • William Kelly says:

    This mayor continues to impress.

  • Cornay Bester says:

    Just imagine every South African town & city had a major like him.
    A bit of electioneering that will bear long term fruits. Viva DA

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    Brilliant!

    Mayor Law-and-Order Lewis.

    Someone clone that man. A lot.

  • Louise Wilkins says:

    This major should be president! Can you imagine what he could do for South Africa. Come on people, vote DA!! I moved to CT from JHB 2 years ago and the difference is astounding. Roads, traffic lights, water, power, refuse collection, all work. I regularly give lifts to people who live in the informal settlement close to me and communication is easy, trust is high and people have a comfortable attitude towards each other. Life here is so much better with the DA in charge.

    • Roelf Pretorius says:

      Agree. Once Hill-Lewis and Pappas of KZN moves up to be the leaders of the DA, they may well be able to do better than they do at the moment. Because we direly need a government that focuses on the primary reason for government to exist, namely to keep the citizens and businesses safe. Instead of that the current government rather tries to keep the criminals safe so they go on with their crimes.

  • Rob Alexander says:

    The real problem behind the criminality is the hatted fool we have as a minister of police. Replace him with someone who is NOT useless and inept and we might have a fighting chance in turning this tide of organised crime.

    • Steve Davidson says:

      They’ll just find another idiot. As others here have said – but I’m sure all are sceptical it’ll ever happen – the answer is for the DA to take over the country, but even with the perfect selling points they have in the Cape for incredibly good management and despite having the ongoing influx of economic refugees from the ANC’s disgraceful corrupt incompetence in the Eastern Cape that depletes the budgets, the sheeple will still vote for them.

  • Rory Macnamara says:

    Now if Joburg paid attention and stopped switching mayors, which seems to be their main focus for 2023, we should follow Cape Town’s example and work for the ratepayers.

  • William Dryden says:

    This is another reason for the Majority of South Africans to vote DA in the 2024 elections, it’s our only chance of stemming the corruption in the ANC and turning this country around.

  • Matthew Quinton says:

    WONDERFULL!!!

    As a Property Developer I say let us all give him our full support and confidence.

    Another hole-in-one by Geordin Hill Lewis.

    Best Mayor that Cape Town has had in over 2 decades… hands down!!

    Rest of SA?? Take note… this is how you run a city.

    This is truly what “A BETTER LIFE FOR ALL” actually looks like. This is the dream of the rainbow nation actually being realised right in front of your eyes.

    I truly feel good about paying my rates and taxes to the City of Cape Town, because I know the money is being used for the common good.

    • Dianne Dobson says:

      This is the sort of mayor we need countrywide! Let’s get rid of the useless Minister of Police and Minister of public enterprises!

  • Brian Doyle says:

    Great idea which i hope bears fruit. It is time somebody or institution stood up against these blatant criminals as the Police force are largely ineffectual, especially with a useless Cele in charge

  • alderpenelope says:

    Yes, this Cape Town mayor is a shining light. Also Chris Pappas in KZN. Both young, both competent, both doing their damnedest to serve the people for whom they are in office. Strength to your respective arms !!

  • David Mark says:

    No contest in WC, easy vote next year.

  • Jennifer D says:

    Energy, enthusiasm and the one thing that is lacking in the ANC, morality, which has quickly eroded throughout South Africa during ANC tenure. Our leaders are criminals and what we used to expect (justice, law and order) is now long past. Hill Lewis is a symbol of hope – if he can get this right in the WC there is still a chance for South Africa. That said, with so many of our citizens clearly without any moral compass, it will continue to be an uphill battle.
    This is uplifting and hopeful news.

  • Jacci Babich says:

    Go for it Cape Town – ordinary folk in South Africa are right behind you. We wish you could run the whole country.

  • Fuad XXX says:

    For a while I was not certain to vote DA again. Now it is A NO-BRAINER.
    viva DA viva. By the way hats of for the Cape Town Mayor & the M.C.M. for Safety & Security. What a pair!!!

  • Roger Sheppard says:

    Super story as in what it stands for. ‘Tis what so many hoped for as a very public indication of where it all could be moving towards, in our land.

    BUT…we are not there yet!
    You are ONE. Add ONE…this is the slogan!
    If every DA voter who voted last election CONVERTS 1 (ONE) person to the DA cause, the stats given by the DA campaign manager, and the DA Federal Chairperson, indicate that the DA would be significantly victorious come 2024 elections.
    This is each person’s task, and is a responsibility of note!
    You owe it to your neighbours, to your friends and to your families!

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