AGE OF THE ASSASSIN
Boko Haram vs Guptas – judgment reveals extensive network around Cape Town extortion gangs
Two rival gangs of extortionists, with strongholds in Khayelitsha, operate across the Western Cape. They have such expansive networks that their influence extends beyond the province and may involve corrupt cops.
Members of the Boko Haram gang in Khayelitsha broke away at some point and formed another gang, The Guptas. These two rival gangs have been responsible for extreme violence in areas across Cape Town.
This is according to a Western Cape High Court judgment, delivered on Wednesday, 22 November, that elaborates on the reach of, and dangers associated with, Boko Haram and The Guptas.
The judgment is based on a mass shooting that took place in Khayelitsha in March 2020 – seven people were killed and seven others, including a child aged six, were wounded.
In May 2021, Daily Maverick reported that the same two gangs – Boko Haram and The Guptas – were behind a massacre that saw 12 people being gunned down in Khayelitsha.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Twelve killed in Khayelitsha weekend murder spree — rivalry between extortion gangs escalates
The Boko Haram gang has previously been flagged as active in Tshwane, where its members were believed to have infiltrated the ANC.
Read more in Daily Maverick: When gangsters came to the party: The ANC’s links to Tshwane’s ‘Boko Haram’
About two years ago the South African Police Service (SAPS) arrested suspected Boko Haram members in Gauteng “after business people in and around Mamelodi alleged that they were forced to pay monies to the suspects in exchange for some kind of ‘protection’ for themselves and their businesses.”
The high court judgment delivered last week in the Western Cape provides more details about Boko Haram, and the rival Guptas, and their activities there.
Shootings and protection fees
“Both gangs were extortionists of business people in general, but especially targeting Somali businessmen in the townships of the Western Cape,” Judge Daniel Thulare stated in the judgment.
“Business people paid what was called a ‘protection fee’, to not be robbed or even killed by the gangs.
“Failure to pay a protection fee resulted in business robberies, including being shot at deliberately, either being injured or even killed. The extortion gangs were ruling the township business environment with an iron fist.”
Details about the gangs’ operations in Cape Town, as outlined in Thulare’s judgment, are similar to what suspected Boko Haram gangsters were accused of in Tshwane.
Last Wednesday, Thulare convicted two men, Gcinithemba Beja and Fundile Maseti, for the March 2020 Khayelitsha massacre.
Aside from providing insight into Boko Haram and The Guptas in the Western Cape, the judgment also points to suspicions of SAPS officers colluding with gangsters.
It is Thulare’s second judgment in just over a year that suggests such corruption within police ranks.
In October 2022, in a ruling linked to another gang case, he said that 28s gangsters may have infiltrated the Western Cape’s police service, including its management structure, and possibly had access to crime-fighting strategies.
Read more in Daily Maverick: The shameful silence about probes into Judge Thulare’s findings of gangster and police collusion
On Monday, 27 November, Western Cape police spokesperson Captain Frederick van Wyk told Daily Maverick that officers were aware of Thulare’s judgment from last week.
However, he said, “no official complaint [was] received in respect of the conduct of any police officer from Khayelitsha SAPS, nor have any been identified by the courts or the witness.”
Thulare’s judgment from last week focused on an individual referred to as “N[…]1” who was fatally shot in March 2020.
Boko Haram vs Guptas
It said N[…]1 had initially belonged to the Boko Haram gang before breaking away with friends who formed The Guptas gang.
There were suspicions that this manoeuvre sparked the March 2020 massacre.
“The incident in this matter, in its context, is understood by the police… as a battle for turf between gangsters…
“Some of those shot at, like… the then 6-year-old child, were simply collateral damage,” the judgment said.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Gugulethu massacre: Gang sends out grim video message warning of more carnage
After the shooting, among those who pretended to be an onlooker at the scene was one of the men convicted last week – Fundile Maseti.
The judgment explained: “This is one of the ways in which The Guptas kept themselves informed of who said what to the police, and enforced an iron grip on the community to keep the community from benefiting from the presence of the police.”
A witness to the shooting, identified as Mr X, had also believed “The Guptas had informers including within the SAPS in Khayelitsha.”
Influence in Eastern Cape
Thulare’s judgment said that the morning after the shooting, Mr X and two others had gone to the police to share information.
But while there, they spotted cops who they knew socialised with The Guptas.
Mr X later passed on information to police officers. However, he believed cops based in Khayelitsha then informed The Guptas that he had done so, as members of the gang began looking for him.
“Once they knew, obviously told by a member of the SAPS, The Guptas immediately started looking for Mr X in the township,” Thulare’s judgment said.
To try to keep Mr X safe, other police officers planned to get him to the Eastern Cape where he could stay with family.
However, members of The Guptas seemed to be aware of this plan.
“The[ir] search went so far as some unknown men visiting his relatives in a rural village in the Eastern Cape the next day to look for Mr X there,” Thulare’s judgment said.
“This demonstrates how far the network and influence of the extortionists in Khayelitsha stretch.”
Mr X subsequently entered into the witness protection programme.
While extortion is a problem across South Africa, the Western Cape has been especially hard hit.
Restaurants and nightclubs in the city centre have previously been targeted.
Read more in Daily Maverick: The Enforcers – Inside Cape Town’s Deadly Nightclub Battles
More than three years ago, the community safety MEC at the time, Albert Fritz, also referenced the two rival gangs operating in Khayelitsha and further afield.
He said: “Reports have shown that The “Guptas” and the “Boko Haram” gangs in townships such as Gugulethu, Nyanga, Khayelitsha, Mfuleni, Philippi East, and formerly ‘coloured’ townships are targeting our community members, local businesses, [early childhood development centres], and even government officials.”
Read more in Daily Maverick: Murderous construction mafias have brought many companies to their knees – with SAPS help, the fightback has started
Apart from businesspeople being targeted, extortionists demanding so-called protection fees have also turned their focus to construction sites and targeted individuals in that sector.
In January, the SAPS acknowledged: “There has been an increase in confirmed and unconfirmed reports of extortion-related crime in the housing construction sector.”
Murder and millions on security
Construction mafia crimes, probably also fuelled by gangs apart from Boko Haram and The Guptas, like the 28s, have been reported across Cape Town and further afield.
It has resulted in shootings and murders.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Police hunt construction mafia killers after bullets fly at a Cape Flats building site
An example of the violence includes the murder in February of City of Cape Town official Wendy Kloppers – she was shot at a housing project in Delft that had also been petrol bombed.
Last month, to try to crack down on the construction mafia, the City of Cape Town launched an anti-extortion campaign, including a hotline.
Reporting to the hotline – 0800 00 6992 – could be done anonymously.
Speaking at the time of the campaign’s launch, Cape Town Mayor Geordin 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.” DM