Amplified risks and facing fears – the many unintended targets Cape Town’s organised crime can produce
When dealing with organised crime in Cape Town – whether medically helping people wounded in shootings, trying to crack down on it, or even journalists reporting on it – there’s a chance you will be targeted. It comes with the territory and standing your ground is essential.
‘The injuries suffered by the victim [were] so severe that he was hospitalised for five days, and we had to assist to have the victim hospitalised under an alias for his own protection.
“The hospital staff at the medical facility where he was treated had fears for his and their safety and discharged him before he had to be operated on. He went back on a date arranged to be operated on.”
These chilling sentences are contained in a 9 October 2023 affidavit by Lieutenant-Colonel Christiaan van Renen, the investigating officer in a case against individuals including 28s gang boss-accused Ralph Stanfield and his wife Nicole Johnson.
Read more in Daily Maverick: ‘I want to empty a gun in his head’ – chilling affidavit about alleged 28s gang boss Ralph Stanfield’s ‘plans’
The “victim” referred to in Van Renen’s affidavit is a man who Stanfield allegedly wanted to murder and who was targeted in a shooting in Cape Town on 7 September 2023.
Stanfield and Johnson, who were recently arrested on various charges, have denied the accusations against them.
The case they are central to, though, which is still in the bail application phase, is highlighting the often-unseen reach of organised crime and the fear it can incite.
To articulate that reach, crimes need to be traced from the point of commission and beyond.
If someone is wounded or injured in a crime, the trail from it can extend to ambulance personnel and hospital workers. It spreads further when arrests are made, leading into police holding cells, jails and courtrooms.
Among those affected along the way are an array of individuals including cops, prison wardens and judicial workers – and potentially others following and recording what is happening.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Fear, violence and extortion in Cape Town — luxury venue Ayepyep closes amid claims of gangsterism and threats
Some crime suspects have been known to move around Cape Town with several (sometimes self-styled) bodyguards in tow.
This implies they fear being targeted.
If they are – if they contaminate usually safe spaces via attracting violence – anyone around them could get caught up in it.
Places that are not necessarily dangerous can instantly become so.
Bullets and innocent bystanders
Indeed, shootings in Cape Town put people near those violent flashpoints in danger – they could end up in the path of stray bullets in situations they have nothing to do with.
Take the assassination of Shafiq Naser on Wednesday, 4 October 2023. He was gunned down while driving in the Cape Town suburb of Milnerton, in an incident that put several other motorists at risk.
The assassins targeting him, though, hit only their mark.
That has not always been the case.
A few years ago there was a spate of shootings in the city and bystanders were killed or wounded in some of those crimes.
There is the horrific case of Nicole Muller, who was fatally shot while celebrating a friend’s 30th birthday inside a Stellenbosch venue in 2017.
She was a mother of two.
This type of violence has a ripple effect.
From medical staff to prosecutors
Based on Van Renen’s affidavit in the Stanfield case, hospital workers can – and do – face risks when dealing with patients involved in organised crime or even those who get caught up in related violence by sheer chance.
There have been incidents in which hospitals have had to ramp up security because of criminal suspicions linked to certain patients.
Despite often dangerous situations, medical workers still treat individuals, albeit with extreme precautions in place.
Risk extends from hospital wards and doctors’ rooms to courtrooms. Prosecutors and other state judicial officers can also become targets for doing their jobs.
Read more in Daily Maverick: 28s gang ‘capture’ top Western Cape cops, prosecutors’ lives at risk – judge sounds corruption alarm
An unprecedented Western Cape High Court judgment from October 2022 rings alarm bells about this.
Judge Daniel Thulare, presiding over a gang-related case, found: “The evidence further shows that the 28 gang and the Mobsters [gang] in particular are breathing heavily on the necks of public prosecutors who guide the investigation of organised crime and institute criminal proceedings against its members.
“Such prosecutors are under a constant and permanent threat to their lives and that of their close families.
“The evidence also shows that the Mobsters have now moved gear upwards and are interfering with the decorum of the courts and the independence of judicial officers, and testing the judicial oath of office, especially the word ‘without fear’.”
Draining court resources
As if being in danger is not enough, there are other problems prosecutors and their colleagues must deal with, which again highlight the amplifying effects of organised crime.
At the end of August 2023, Daily Maverick reported that high-risk gang cases, which often involve a number of accused and tightened security, were using up resources.
Read more in Daily Maverick: ‘High-risk’ gang cases exacerbate Western Cape High Court backlog and spark concerns for those awaiting justice
This undoubtedly adds stress to already overworked prosecutors and other court staff.
They continue with their work, though.
Cops in the firing line
Police officers are, of course, also often the targets of criminals.
It is usually for obvious reasons, such as crooks wanting to get hold of their service pistols, or to eliminate an investigator to torpedo the cases they are working on.
Take, for example, what happened in September 2020 when Lieutenant-Colonel Charl Kinnear was assassinated outside his Cape Town home in Bishop Lavis.
Kinnear was investigating several organised crime cases at the time of his murder.
There were added sinister tones to his murder because he had also been looking into how some of his cop colleagues allegedly created fraudulent firearm licences for suspects.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Killing Charl Kinnear could collapse critical cop gun corruption cases
While the Kinnear case points to duplicity and criminality in the cop service, his assassination obviously had a devastating impact on some of close co-workers.
Honest police officers, meanwhile, are pushing ahead and still carrying out crime-fighting operations and conducting critical investigations.
Arrests are testimony to that.
This brings us back to Stanfield and co.
In 2013, his cousin, Saliem John, accused of gangsterism and murder at the time and who was subsequently sentenced to life terms in prison, was wounded in a shooting outside the Western Cape High Court.
This attempted killing points to the risks court workers, prosecuting authorities, lawyers, accused who are not in custody and others attending cases can face.
In 2014, Stanfield and Johnson were initially arrested as part of another case, which echoes what Kinnear was investigating at the time of his murder.
The 2014 case was based on allegations that three (now former) police officers linked to the Central Firearm Registry – Priscilla Mangyani, Billy April and Mary Cartwright – handed gun licences to Stanfield and others who had no legal right to such paperwork.
Bomb threat and brawl
There was a bomb scare at the Cape Town court where he was meant to appear following his 2014 arrest.
Apparent gangsters also got into a fight outside the court building.
This journalist was present at those events which, while not wholly unexpected, were concerning.
Fast-forward to Wednesday, 11 October 2023, when Stanfield, Johnson and their three co-accused appeared in the Cape Town Magistrates’ Court on the latest charges they face.
Journalists at the scene said that during a break in those proceedings, a reporter went to buy refreshments, and on her return, a man approached her and told her that reporters sitting in front of the courtroom would be dealt with.
Other journalists were informed, and police notified.
These incidents, while they may have nothing to do with Stanfield or his co-accused, are worrying.
‘Gun will be used on your head’
In August 2017, this journalist was threatened with being shot for reporting on a major investigation involving allegations that police officers smuggled firearms to gangsters in the Western Cape.
Sent via SMS, the 2017 threat read: “Ms doley!That. same. guns. that. the. cops. sold. is. going. to. be. used. on. your. head. at. work. or. your. house. or. your. mom. house. and. your. dog.”
Read more in Daily Maverick: Bullet points – this is what drove victims of cop-smuggled firearms to launch a lawsuit against police
These are just some situations journalists reporting on organised crime can face.
Individuals can, and do, become targets simply for doing their jobs.
And yet, journalists continue reporting on organised crime, medical staff continue assisting patients who are – or who are victims of – criminals, honest police officers keep investigating and carrying out arrests, and prosecutors keep pushing cases and accused towards convictions and prison sentences.
The ultimate shared goal is to try to see to it that what is described above does not happen in the first place – and if it does, that it is brought to public attention. DM
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