Gangstas’ Paradise – how the ‘bullet rule’ of gangsters is strangling the life out of SA’s Mother City

Gangstas’ Paradise – how the ‘bullet rule’ of gangsters is strangling the life out of SA’s Mother City
Illustrative image: Alleged underworld kingpin Nafiz Modack. (Photo: Daily Maverick) | Alleged 28s boss Ralph Stanfield and his wife Nicole Johnson. (Photo: Jaco Marais / Gallo Images / Die Burger) | Embattled politician and former Cape Town mayoral committee member for human settlements Malusi Booi. (Photo: Brenton Geach) | Table Mountain. (Photo: Shaun Roy / Gallo) | Images: Snowglobe, bullets and bullet casings. (Vecteezy) | Graphic: Jocelyn Adamson

Gangsters are throttling Cape Town by violently muscling in on construction sites, running private security companies, stalking businesspeople, and colluding with officials in government and the private sector in the Western Cape.

Gangsters in Cape Town are running private security companies, violently muscling in on construction sites and extorting businesspeople. They are connected to entertainment venues and collude with an array of individuals in government and the private sector. These accusations – and very real situations – are throttling the city.

Piecing together various gang-related problems, which are usually focused on in isolation, allows for an ominous picture to emerge.

‘Iron-fisted’ extortionists

Although some honest police officers try to deal with gangsterism, there are suspicions of cops siding with the thugs they are meant to be putting behind bars.

This is particularly distressing because the Western Cape is South Africa’s gangsterism capital, where children are often caught in gun battles. And as criminals try to cash in on the holiday season, more violence could lie ahead.

A judgment delivered in the Western Cape Division of the High Court in Cape Town on 22 November dealt with how crime and corruption affect parts of the city.

It related to two extortion gangs, The Guptas and Boko Haram, which “were ruling the township business environment with an iron fist”, and how a witness to a 2020 mass shooting in Khayelitsha believed the police betrayed him by telling gangsters he had provided information on the massacre to their colleagues.

In the judgment, Judge Daniel Thulare found that many residents in poorer parts of Cape Town live a warped and dangerous reality.

“In their reality, the gangsters’ ‘bullet rule’ applies in every inch from the street corner, through the police station to the grave. In those gangster-controlled streets of the townships, the Bill of Rights [does] not apply and a constitutional state is a myth,” Thulare found.

“The Bill of Rights and the Constitution may apply and be enjoyed elsewhere in the country, but not in the island of their misery, which are the townships of Cape Town commonly referred to as the Cape Flats.”

The Cape Flats’ suburbs are where certain residents were forced to live under apartheid’s Group Areas Act. As a result, they are historically poorer. Gangsterism has long been viewed as being concentrated in these areas, and although residents still suffer the brunt of gang-related violence, the reach of gangs obviously extends much further.

Support from other quarters, including the government and business, is needed for gangs to thrive.

Cop collusion

Daily Maverick previously reported on another of Thulare’s judgments, in which he found that there was evidence suggesting the 28s gang had infiltrated the Western Cape’s police. This included its manage­ment structure. The judgment, in October last year, said the gangsters may have had access to crimefighting plans.

Despite more than a year having lapsed, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate has not publicly presented the findings of its investigation into the matter. The South African Police Service (SAPS) has also been silent. It is therefore not clear whether any police officers have been found officially to have colluded with gangsters, as Thulare’s judment inferred.

Meanwhile, a long-running case involving alleged 28s gang boss Ralph Stanfield and his wife, Nicole Johnson, is expected to resume this month.

They were arrested in 2014 in connection with fraudulent firearm licences and detained with Stanfield’s sister, Francisca, and three – now former –  police officers linked to the SAPS’s Central Firearms Registry.

It was alleged that the cops, Priscilla Mangyani, Billy April and Mary Cartwright, had fraudulently created firearm licences for people, including Stanfield and others, who did not have to follow the legal steps to obtain them.

Stanfield and Johnson were arrested again at the end of September this year on charges including fraud, car theft and, in his case, attempted murder.

Along with three other men, they are expected back in the Cape Town Magistrates’ Court in February next year.

Mixing business with gangs

Aside from masterminding overt violence, gangsters are known to use front companies, or companies headed by individuals without criminal records, to conduct illegal acts, money laundering included, on their behalf.

This makes it easier for corrupt state officials to cash in on crimes via companies that, at face value, appear to be above board.

Without good governance at a national, provincial and city level, gangs will thrive even more than they already are, which means more crime and more murders.

There are already suspicions of gang collusion affecting all three tiers of government in the Western Cape.

At a City of Cape Town level, Malusi Booi was fired from the post of mayoral committee member for human settlements in March after his office was raided as part of a fraud and corruption investigation.

Stanfield’s name featured in the investigation into whether Booi accepted cash from “notorious” underworld figures in exchange for information about housing tenders.

At the end of October, Booi resigned as a councillor, saying he wants to clear his name as well as get on with his life.

On a provincial level, there are connections between the Western Cape government and Johnson as it did business with Glomix House Brokers, of which she is the director.

Daily Maverick previously reported that Glomix was building 204 houses in Valhalla Park, another Cape Town suburb where the 28s gang has strongholds, in a project meant to wrap up next year.

But in 2019, Valhalla Park residents reportedly complained that a housing project was halted when a contractor was forced to pay “protection fees” to the 28s.

Other construction mafia crimes, including shootings, have happened since then. A Sunday Times article recently stated: “In a brazen bid [in February] to take control of lucrative building contracts, alleged associates of … Stanfield allegedly threatened top City of Cape Town officials in their offices, warning them to hand over contracts.”

It also alleged that two City of Cape Town officials said that Glomix, plus 15 other companies linked to Stanfield, “managed to infiltrate the provincial and local government through both corruption and deception”.

Stanfield and Johnson have not been criminally charged over Glomix matters.

Daily Maverick recently reported that a man named Ernest McLaughlin, who faced gun licence fraud charges with Stanfield and was murdered in a shooting in Cape Town in March, had been linked to three companies.

One of the three was Glomix and another, Yibaninati, secured a contract in 2017 with the Department of Defence and Military Veterans.

Derailing important work

Gangsterism suspicions trail from private and government offices to construction sites and railways.

Daily Maverick reported last year that operations to rehabilitate sections of the railways in the Western Cape were disrupted because gangsters were threatening violence. At the time, the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) confirmed that the work to fix railway infrastructure that had been destroyed by vandalism and theft was put on hold.

It was understood that gangsters aligned to the 28s were angry with Prasa over the awarding of security contracts and the allocation of jobs in the sector, and were retaliating using intimidation and extortion.

DJ Sumbody during the 25th annual South African Music Awards at Sun City on 1 June 2019 in Rustenburg, South Africa. He was murdered in a shooting in Johannesburg in November 2022. (Photo: Gallo Images / Lefty Shivambu)

Entertainment venues

Accusations of gang activities further extend from railways and various government offices to entertainment venues.

In Cape Town’s city centre, crime suspects have been known to own and run entertainment establishments, or to be in charge of providing their security.

A few years ago, a spate of violent incidents unfolded at nightclubs and eateries in the city, and some patrons were caught in shootings.

Last week, the Western Cape police issued festive season safety tips. Among them was advice to patrons to visit “reputable” clubs and establishments.

Ayepyep Lifestyle Lounge in Gardens, Cape Town. (Photo: Supplied)

In a separate issue earlier this year, Stanfield and Johnson were named in a matter involving the Ayepyep Lifestyle Lounge, a venue based in the city centre. Its co-founder, DJ and producer Oupa John Sefoka, aka DJ Sumbody, was murdered in a shooting in Johannesburg in November 2022.

Ayepyep Cape Town was closed in August after accusations by its former co-owner, Kagiso Setsetse, that Stanfield and Johnson, its general manager, were trying to take it over. The venue, which is now co-owned by Johnson’s mother, Barbara Johnson, reopened in September shortly before the pair were arrested.

Among the accusations Setsetse had made, and which Stanfield countered with claims of his own, was that Stanfield was involved in dealing with security at Ayepyep Cape Town.

Cape Town Anti-Gang Unit officer Charl Kinnear was assassinated outside his home in Bishop Lavis, Cape Town, in September 2020. (Photo: Noor Slamdien)

Security for gun licences

Sources involved in the private security industry, speaking broadly, have previously said that gangsters can use security companies, which they get associates and relatives to run, as a guise to apply to the police to get firearm licences. But instead of using the firearms for security operations, they are used in crimes such as acts of intimidation.

Dodgy private security companies are alleged to have tentacles extending from suburbia into Cape Town’s city centre, where there have been battles to dominate the bouncer industry.

Names that have previously surfaced in this regard include Mark Lifman and Jerome Booysen, who are both facing charges in connection with the assassination of a steroid smuggler in 2017 in Constantia (the same suburb where Stanfield and Johnson were arrested this year).

Suspected organised crime kingpin Nafiz Modack was alleged to be a rival of Lifman.

In May, the Western Cape Division of the High Court in Cape Town dismissed an application by Modack to get a ruling against certain police officers, including “high-ranking ones”, who he said were harassing him while “he has lawfully been acting as a consultant to certain security businesses, and while he has been in lawful possession of firearms”.

However, the judgment said a policeman, Charl Kinnear, who had been investigating Modack, previously countered Modack’s description of himself.

Long Street in Cape Town, South Africa, 19 August 2020. (Photo: Dwayne Senior / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

It stated that Kinnear had obtained evidence that “certain security guards”, who were harassing venues along Cape Town’s famed party strip in the city centre, Long Street, were linked to businesses that Modack allegedly operated.

Kinnear was assassinated in the Cape Town suburb of Bishop Lavis, parts of which are 28s gang strongholds, in September 2020. Modack is now among those accused in connection with his killing.

Speaking at Kinnear’s funeral in 2020, Police Minister Bheki Cele recalled how, together with a team of officers, he had visited Long Street to address extortion, only to be told that “some gangster chiefs” had followed them around.

“Which means there is equilibrium. There is an elected government here and a non-elected government. We can’t co-govern with crime. We just can’t co-govern with crime,” Cele said.

However, what is happening all over Cape Town points to the police indeed “co-governing” with criminals. 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.

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Iam Fedup says:

    The seedy side of Cape Town is obvious for all to see, and personally our family doesn’t go there on holiday anymore. It’s a disgrace to see how even vagrants and petty criminals affect the day to day happiness of tourists and residents alike. But there needs to be a desire to fix this once and for all – brutally if necessary – and one only needs to look at Italy’s struggle for eventual success with the Mafia for lessons in how to solve it all. Right now, SAPS and the DA have both proven themselves weak at best in resolving this, and CT is bound to end up like Rio de Janeiro if urgent action isn’t taken.

  • ilike homophones says:

    You are missing the banks!!! I know from personal experience that bank officials at aapsa have direct ties to the group you are mentioning. They are also linked to cell companies. Again, I know this from personal experience

  • Johan Buys says:

    Crooked cops + gangsters. That’s how community vigilante groups start. A thousand homes can buy far better (trained and equipped) private security than what the gangster bosses can patch together from their members. Or a new version of PAGAD to take back the suburbs.

    Problem is, some people say private security in SA is not only far bigger than SAPS, it is also far bigger in organized crime.

  • Coen Gous says:

    It is fairly common knowledge that Cape Town, and many surrounding towns in the Western Cape, has became the drug centre of South Africa. This in turn, leads to the establishments of well equipped gangs, often with the help of some in the police. What follows is a fight for dominance, using illegal weapons, night clubs, and violence between gangs, resulting in the death of many innocent civilians. The police, together with Cape Town’s own law enforcement, has no way to deal with this. Living in townships is a gamble, and regardless of so-called Service Delivery by the DA, this predominantly applies to better well-off suburbs, with the help of high walls, electric fences, alarm systems galore. Surely a gamble to try and move freely around the attractive environment, e.g. Table Mountain.

  • ombani.stan says:

    Yes the gangsters is really a problem and need to be addressed with care, the same modus operandi is happening in Limpopo Province, Thohoyandou, thanks to Saps, intelligence, CIG and TRT

  • Wayne Holt says:

    Whilst the Association of National Criminals is in charge and part of the problem do not expect any change. And unfortunately during the coalitions where the EFF is involved it’s going to get worse until we sufficient votes are in the hands of the opposition to oust these dishonest and disruptive elements of our society

  • Hermann Funk says:

    A police force led by a minister who was too corrupt even for Zuma, is a recipe for disaster.

  • John P says:

    A very important point which is always neglected or overlooked is that the “Western Cape Police” are in fact the national SAPS who happen to be based in Cape Town. They fall under Cele the hatted one and are NOT under the control of the Western Cape at all.

  • Rae Earl says:

    How the hell can any city under siege like Cape Town currently is, defend its people and infrastructure against gangsters when the minister of police is on their side? Bheki Cele is a known corruption case and enjoys the protection of his timid and fearful president Cyril Ramaphosa. Between them, these two maintain the status quo in the SA Police which sees the bad elements in its ranks enjoying the protection of the ANC government.

  • Les Thorpe says:

    Pointless drafting a solution as nothing will happen. No one will be convicted, no one will go to jail. The gangsters in Cape Town are just one of the symptoms of allowing a
    criminal syndicate to run the country for over twenty-five years.

    The constitution, widely lauded by all and sundry in the legal fraternity, needs to be scrapped and replaced by a more pragmatic document limiting “human rights” in a crime-infested country.

  • Angelo Bijoux says:

    Lmao yall just had to get rid of pagad. They know they only way to get rid of gangsters is to do what needs to be done .

  • I would not be surprised if some the weapons are the ones stolen during the Durban July riot period.

  • Francoise Phillips says:

    Let us not forget that late night meeting then President Zuma and his son Duduzane had with the all the numbers gang leaders in Cape Town. An agreement was made that the gangs would be armed by the police and protected from prosecution in exchange for rendering the Western Cape ungovernable. The ANC is crime.

  • Change is good sa says:

    There is only one way to change this and that is to vote against the ANC and EFF (who will collude with the ANC to get their hands on the public purse) next year and embrace the change that comes with it.
    If SA citizens do this, every day that we do not have the ANC in power, will be a day towards a brighter and better future. Cape Town is not the only city suffering from gangsterism, Cape Town is just over reported by the media. The DA are fighting this scourge with all they have at their disposal.

  • Carsten Rasch says:

    The only way to get the upper hand over organised crime is to be more ruthless, and smarter. You are never going to win this war – and it is a war – by playing nice, and by the rules.

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