SA’s Narcos Capture – the Mandrax trafficker and ‘wanted terrorist’ matrix haunting the ANC, Zuma, Guptas

SA’s Narcos Capture – the Mandrax trafficker and ‘wanted terrorist’ matrix haunting the ANC, Zuma, Guptas
Graphic: Jocelyn Adamson. From left: Ibrahim Akasha Abdalla. (Photo: AFP) | Ajay Gupta and Atul Gupta. (Photo: Martin Rhodes / Gallo Images) | Baktash Akasha Abdalla. (Photo: AFP) | Vicky Goswami. (Photo: DEA) | Dawood Ibrahim. (Photo: Interpol) | Jacob Zuma. (Photo: Tebogo Letsie / Gallo Images) | Background photos: (iStock)

Accusations involving South Africa’s key State Capture suspects tail the Indian druglord Vicky Goswami, which suggest the country’s capture could involve narco-trafficking conduits. Goswami, the glue connecting various claims, has a deep history with South Africa. This is Part One of our Where Are They Now drug dons series.

Mandrax trafficker Vicky Goswami now has wildly different titles in different countries. In Dubai, he is a former prison inmate; in the US, he is a state witness; in India, he is a wanted suspect; and in South Africa, he is probably a source of anxiety to many.

Goswami’s name is a hinge that connects two sets of claims linking State Capture in South Africa to some of the world’s most notorious drug trafficking accused.

On one side, there are reports that members of the Gupta family – the nucleus of State Capture accusations in South Africa – laundered money on behalf of a self-professed spy from Pakistan whom the US has accused of being a prolific global drug don.

On the other, there are accusations that a suspected South African money launderer, with alleged ties to a global terrorist drug trafficker, washed cash for the Guptas. The Guptas have not been charged for this.

Surrounding all those claims – and countering denials – are the names of several weighty political figures, including that of former head of state Jacob Zuma.

Asked about related issues last week, including whether Zuma knew an alleged key money launderer, Jacob Zuma Foundation spokesperson Mzwanele Manyi told Daily Maverick: “You are fishing in a desert.”

A Gupta lawyer was unable to respond to Daily Maverick questions by the time of publication.

Former president Jacob Zuma addresses uMkhonto Wesizwe party supporters at Alexandra Stadium, 7 February 2024. (Photo: Gallo Images / City Press / Tebogo Letsie)

Mr Mandrax with Mandela

Goswami, the glue connecting various claims, has a deep history with South Africa. Originally from India, he operated in the country in the early 1990s.

About five years ago, asked in a US court whether he remembered once being photographed with democratic South Africa’s first president, Nelson Mandela, he replied that he did.

He denied involving himself with “the government of South Africa” because he wanted protection from prosecution. But several figures linked to law enforcement in this country, based on previous interviews, believe otherwise – that he tried for, and got, that protection.

Vuyo Ndzeku, who once smuggled drugs and later became an aviation industry businessman, at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry. (Photo: Papi Morake / Gallo Images)

Politics and Zambia

A web of political suspicions extends from Goswami. One strand of that expansive web leads to Zambia.

Before South Africa, Goswami was in Zambia (coincidentally where Zuma became the ANC’s intelligence chief during apartheid) in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

According to a 2014 Sunday Times article that no longer seems to be available online, Goswami once said: “I knew some of the ANC leaders and ministers when I was in South Africa from our days in Zambia. I gave money to the ANC and contributed to the struggle.”

During apartheid, the South African government had produced drugs. Members of the ANC, which was banned at the time, were also suspected of drug dealing to make money to fight the regime.

This journalist’s book, Clash of the Cartels: Unmasking the global drug kingpins stalking South Africa, references a 1987 affidavit by Vuyo Ndzeku, who once smuggled drugs and later became an aviation industry businessman.

Ndzeku’s 1987 affidavit stated: “A lot of the Mandrax dealers are people working for the ANC and the money they make on these tablets is used to buy arms… A lot of cars get stolen in South Africa, which are then taken to Zambia and swapped for tablets. These cars are used by the ANC.”

Last week, though, in response to broader Daily Maverick questions, ANC spokesperson Mahlengi Bhengu-Motsiri emphatically denied that any drug dealing ever took place, saying such insinuations were “sick” and that the “lies” had no place in South Africa in 2024.

Although anti-apartheid fighters had been involved in smuggling weapons and crucial documents, she said, they had not been involved in illicit drugs that could “destroy the lives of South Africans”.

Meanwhile, Ndzeku’s affidavit had also referred to an individual known as “Iboo”.  This was the alias of Ibrahim Sildky Yusuf, a businessman originally from Zambia who operated in South Africa (and who may have had ties to Goswami). Yusuf was reportedly on the Zambian police’s radar on suspicion of Mandrax dealing in the 1980s.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Vuyo Sipho Ndzeku’s Zondo testimony is among the most bizarre delivered at the commission

In October 2010, the Mail & Guardian reported that it “appears Yusuf’s relocation to South Africa was eased by the contacts he had made with ANC figures in exile in Zambia”.

Yusuf was in business with Billy Ma­­setlha, a former South African National Intelligence Agency head widely viewed as an ally of Zuma. Based on condolence messages on social media, Yusuf died in 2021, and Masetlha died in 2023.

Ndzeku, the source of some of the Zambia-linked claims, cropped up again. In 2020 he testified at the State Capture Commission, which delved into widespread corruption that happened mostly when Zuma was head of state.

Ndzeku did not come across well at the commission, often responding to questions, including about allegedly corrupt payments relating to South African Airways, that he did not remember.

Masterminded murder

As for Goswami, after time in Zambia and South Africa, he subsequently popped up in Dubai, where he was handed a life sentence and jailed in 1997 for dealing in Mandrax.

But Goswami was released from prison in 2012 and headed to Kenya, where the law again caught up with him.

In 2017 he was extradited from there to the US along with other suspects, including two Kenyan brothers, Baktash Akasha Abdalla and Ibrahim Akasha Abdalla, better known as the Akashas. They were accused of running a global drug-dealing empire that involved the US and South Africa.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Can South Africa close the net on lethal narcotics trade linked to web of global crime?

Baktash was jailed in the US for 25 years in 2019 and Ibrahim was sentenced to 23 years’ imprisonment in 2020.

Goswami, meanwhile, admitted that, together with the Akashas, he was dominant in South Africa’s drug trade – and that they masterminded a murder in this country to reinforce that position.

According to Goswami, a rival trafficker’s sidekick known as Pinky was shot 32 times somewhere in South Africa in about 2014 “so we can put an impression in South African drug market [that] we are not here to play”.

Goswami testified about this and more in a US court in 2019.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Goswami’s SA mandrax secrets

What makes that international trafficking case remarkable – and casts South Africa in a rather dubious light – is that it is lodged in the US even though it largely focuses on South Africa’s drug trade.

And South Africa has not acted against Goswami, despite him openly talking about how he was involved in trafficking via this country for years and tried to dominate the drug scene.

‘Spy’ from Pakistan

Another accused fits into this matrix. The US alleged that Muhammad Asif Hafeez, known as the Sultan, was working with Goswami and the Akashas. Hafeez, from Pakistan, was based in the UK.

In 2019, Vrye Weekblad reported that Goswami also alleged, in sealed grand jury testimony in the US, that members of the Gupta family were involved in money laundering on behalf of Hafeez.

According to the report, Goswami alleged that Gupta associate Salim Essa had introduced him to the Guptas and that he then, in turn, connected the Guptas to Hafeez. Essa denied it.

(That same year, 2019, the US sanctioned Essa, as well as Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta, with the US Treasury Department describing them as “members of a significant corruption network in South Africa”.)

As for Hafeez, he was reportedly extradited from the UK to the US last year.

Last month, Emmanuel Ruchat, a European lawyer who has represented Hafeez, confirmed to Daily Maverick that he was indeed detained in the US.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Pakistani ‘spy’-accused in major SA-linked drugs case stumbles in bid to halt UK extradition to US

Conveying Hafeez’s replies to Daily Maverick’s questions, Ruchat said Hafeez denied knowing the Guptas and if Goswami made such claims “it is wrong”.

US government witness

Back to Goswami. US court papers point to what has happened to him.

A 2019 pre-hearing US government submission in the drug trafficking case says: “The government will present the testimony of Vicky Goswami … who is now a cooperating witness for the government.”

This shows that Goswami became a state witness, meaning the US has access to potentially explosive secrets about South Africa’s drug trade.

In February, Daily Maverick twice asked the US’s Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), via its public affairs email address, what had happened to Goswami and Hafeez, but no response was received.

Previously, in July 2021, when Daily Maverick asked the DEA what had happened to Goswami, it responded: “We are unable to comment until the case is fully adjudicated.” This implied the case was continuing.

‘Wanted accused’

Daily Maverick has also established that Goswami, despite becoming a US government witness in the drug trafficking case, is wanted in India.

According to a 2019 US Attorney’s Office press statement for the Southern District of New York, connected to that trafficking case was a raid at a factory in Solapur, India, around 2014. Eighteen tonnes of ephedrine (used to make crystal methamphetamine, or tik) was seized from it.

Documents from the Bombay High Court dated 2022, relating to that case, said Goswami was a “wanted accused”.

Papers from September last year from the Gujarat High Court refer to Goswami as being in a “foreign country”.

Alleged terrorist Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar as pictured on an Interpol red notice.

‘Global terrorist’

Meanwhile, during previous US court proceedings focused on Goswami in the drug case, another global crime kingpin, also from India and with links to South Africa, was referenced – Dawood Ibrahim. And again, political claims circle this arena.

Ibrahim, who heads a sprawling international crime syndicate known as D-Company, was under investigation in the early 1990s for Mandrax trafficking across Africa, this country included.

D-Company, involved in crimes ranging from trafficking and terrorist attacks to extortion, has a presence in South Africa.

There were suspicions in 2003 that Ibrahim had been present at a cricket match in Gauteng along with Jackie Selebi, who was once South Africa’s national police commissioner and was later convicted of having a corrupt relationship with a drug dealer.

Also in 2003, the US had labelled Ibrahim a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist”.

Last year Daily Maverick reported that Gold Mafia, a four-part series by Al Jazeera’s investigative unit, placed Ibrahim in this country while Zuma was still head of state, and in related circles.

Read more in Daily Maverick: ‘Gold Mafia’ whistle-blower places wanted terrorist Dawood Ibrahim in Gupta, Zuma circles

Mohamed Khan, also known as Mo Dollars, was authorised to launder cigarette mogul Simon Rudland’s money. (Screengrab: Al Jazeera)

It was alleged that a South African, Mohamed Khan, also known as “Mo Dollars”, was a money launderer who knew Zuma so well that the former president had been to his home.

It was also alleged that Khan managed companies and laundered money for Gupta family members, and that he was implicated in the Sasfin Bank scandal, which now involves the taxman claiming R4.8-billion damages relating to dirty tobacco money.

Khan’s brother Dawood asserted in Gold Mafia that he started working with him in 2011 and around that time there was a meeting at a Sandton hotel. He claimed that Ibrahim was among those present.

Khan, in the documentary, said the allegations against him were false and he had never met Zuma, the Guptas or Ibrahim.

The Guptas did not respond in the documentary, and it was in reply to questions about this that Manyi told Daily Maverick: “You are fishing in a desert.”

In the international drug case playing out in the US, when Goswami was testifying there in 2019, he was asked about Ibrahim and whether he had agreed to assassinate Ibrahim for India’s intelligence agency. Goswami was not made to answer. Ibrahim is still listed as a wanted terrorist. DM

This is the first instalment in a three-part Where are they Now series about SA’s drug dons. This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • James Baxter says:

    I have come to the realisation that it is a fact that what you are describing here is a fact of life you will not be able to extricate yourself from. The insti

  • Gxobinjasambe Mntungwa says:

    If this article was about Nigerians there were going to be 1000 comments now because it’s talking about the real drug dealers not spaza shops no comment at all,I am not surprised

    • ST ST says:

      True some stories get more attention But it’s quite early on a Sunday. Look around. You’ll probably find that a lot of stories have no or few comments.

      Yes SA has had drug problem before, mostly mandrax as far as I know. What we have now is an exponentially higher drug problem of all sorts. Not naming anyone but there is objective proof of the mainly responsible.

      Not being xenophobic, but poor SA people do not leave the country to go looking for drugs to sell. They can’t even afford food or to go outside their local area. South Africans in general do not like to leave SA if they can help it. They largely do not have the know how or resources to manufacture and traffic drugs. No country has accused SA citizens to be source of this global issue unless exploited or recruited by those in the business.

      Whole generation’s destroyed with no hope of rehab in our health system. Like SA needs more issues.

  • Jeff Robinson says:

    Regarding Ndzeku’s claims that Mandrax and stolen cars were means of raising money for the ANC, I strongly recommend Stephen Ellis’ meticulously researched expose: External Mission: The ANC in Exile. Max du Preez’s forward is apropos: ‘External Mission helped me understand better how the phenomenon of Jacob Zuma, and his main legacy – state capture – became possible’.

    • Thinker and Doer says:

      Thank you very much, Mr Robinson, for highlighting this book, it sounds very pertinent and puts a great deal of our current situation into appropriate context! I am going to get a copy.

      Thanks also to the DM for this very important and informative article that further puts all of the state capture and subsequent looting and corruption into further perspective!

    • Jacques Siebrits says:

      The book should be compulsory reading. It taught me (inter alia) that the narrative that the ANC in exile was noble and was corrupted after 1994 is a myth – the process started long before that. And that Oliver Tambo was a weak leader who, like Ramaphosa, was so obsessed with unity that he let the bad apples be.

    • D'Esprit Dan says:

      I remember years ago when the Northern Irish peace deal was being signed, there were concerns that the smugglers in the IRA would turn from guns to drugs, because they knew the systems and intermediaries in the underworld intimately and could transition seamlessly. I’ve no idea if this did happen, but it seems that it did here. There were very strong rumours for years that an ex-premier of Gauteng was a kingpin in the drug trade. Never proven, so won’t mention a name.

      • Rod H MacLeod says:

        He was known as “the Snowman” for a reason. He faced the threat of being assassinated in 1994 by a cabal of drug lords. The ANC said it was because of the crack-down on drug trafficking by his government.

        However, according to M&G at the time “It is understood an element of the alleged campaign to discredit [X] was designed to implicate him as being involved in the drug trade himself”.

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    In South Africa, Crime pays….and the bigger the crime the less is done about it! R15billion stolen from the South African taxpayer by the Guptas and they continue to live the highlife in Dubai- the banking home of Criminals, Money launderers and political corruptors. I am so angry!

  • Jennifer D says:

    “During Apartheid the South African government had produced drugs” quote from the article. This is rather interesting – anything to substantiate this? What drugs, for what? That’s quite a statement to causally throw in the ANC drug dealing mix.

    • jcdville stormers says:

      The present goverment in those years before they were in power?

    • Matthew Quinton says:

      Totally true and documented. It’s a know fact in party circles that Wouter Basson made some of the worlds best MDMA ever in the 80’s and 90’s and shipped it to Europe. Funny that the Nats made money off of a love drug. The Nats were also involved in the setup of the Indian based mandrax trade as this drug was seen as a means to subdue the Coloured population of the Western Cape… pumped into those communities in MASSIVE quantities and super cheaply so it was readily available. Not unlike the British empire using the Opium trade to subdue the Chinese empire, or like the Chinese currently using the Fentanyl trade to attack working class America. I’m sure there are LOAAAADS more examples in history, but it’s not a new or unique story.

      • Kanu Sukha says:

        I am surprised (should I be?) that Jennifer D has not heard about the mysterious chemical agent poisoning of Frank Chikane ? If you were involved in the struggle against the apartheid regime, you could not miss it !

  • Bob Fraser says:

    Bob F March 3rd 2024 at 10:56
    It is well known that Zuma was and still is a criminal type but this seems to imply that he is not only a mafia type but is in fact a mafia leader as was Al Capone. Everyone knows that Al Capone was eventually convicted and jailed after a thorough tax investigation so surely it is time for a life style audit of Zuma. He claims to have nothing but a full investigation will reveal where all his wealth is. May also be worth while investigating the drug angle.


  • Rae Earl says:

    Jacob Zuma can’t read a 5 digit number and thinks the continent of Africa is bigger than all the other continents put together. And yet, he was made president of South Africa. The message is clear. Put a corrupt person of low intelligence in a position of power and the criminals will beat a path to his door and be employed in his government. Replace that president with an intelligent but timid and aimless president like Cyril Ramaphosa, and he will retain those criminals in their positions in return for their support and regardless of the wreckage to the country. Voters beware!

  • Anthony Krijger says:

    One only has to look at the current ANC leadership and the fact that none of the state capture kingpins have been tried or jailed. Neither has any of the money been recovered. So to understand that the ANC, either a criminal organisation or simply having criminal leadership, could be the reason why these drug dealers, all with clear political connections were “allowed” to ply their destructive trade. Perhaps if things had been different, we would not have the dreadful gangster & drug problems in Cape Town’s poorer communities. It would also explain the reluctance of the SAPS to do much about this.


    What we have forgotten and what this article reminds us of, is that the ANC pre and post 1994 generated and still does generate money from illicit drug trafficking and illegal arms sales. Zuma and top ANC officials were and are the king pins. By the way, Nelson Mandela and our current President would have been aware of where the money was coming from.
    Without this money and that from the Iranian government, the ANC would effectively cease to exist. They would have no money to pay for busses and food packets to attract indigent communities. They would also not be able to attract and employ their cadres into government positions because the money would not be there to pay them. And I mean which cadre would work for a standard government salary…really. My thinking is, that Julius and his cohort of misfits are doing the same. You can only steal so much in tender rigging and financial fraud (Read VBS Bank) before those taps are closed. Drug trafficking is a never-ending fountain of money.
    Lifestyle audits are a waste of time. None of the assets, cash, holiday trips, expensive watches etc are in their names or can be linked to them buying it. It’s done by family members and arranged “friends”.
    Zuma has no money, so a lifestyle audit on him would be fruitless…but his daughters, sons and other family members do. That’s where SARS needs to start…but while the ANC is in power that will never happen. Zuma has to much dirt on the current powerbase.

    • D'Esprit Dan says:

      Whilst I think your comments have a large degree of merit in that there are almost certainly high-ranking ANC members involved in all levels of criminality, if “Drug trafficking is a never-ending fountain of money”, why was the ANC bankrupt and unable to pay salaries for a couple of years, if it’s institutionalised in the party? It’s not as if there was the addict equivalent of a rent boycott?

  • Louis Fourie says:

    Time to dust off those guillotines.

  • Johan Buys says:

    If you run Google search with limiters you can follow this trail back to 1980’s with regard drugs and ANC.

    Their weakness is their partners roll over in 2 minutes when US federal agents put them in a room with a camera.

    Life in witness protection in Houston beats the heck out of looking over your shoulder every 12 seconds in Soweto Lusaka or Luanda or Dubai.

  • Sechaba Semaketsi says:

    Cannot mention Goswami without referencing the disappearance of Rocks Dlamini!

  • Nervina Kernels says:

    It explains the emergence of the highly funded MK Party. Zuma seems to hate SA with a passion and is now returning to finish off the country completely. He’s a diabolical man.

  • craig white says:

    what you are describing is a common drug trade in ANY country around the world ….. and the “saviour” or “seemingly just ” country mentioned in your article , the USA , is the largest drug destination in the world , and has the largest drug trade on the planet ….. it also has the largest orchestrated Opiod problem in the world – none of the owners or founders of these compnays have spent a day in jail so far , they also have the massive Fentanyl problem , where more than 100 000 people die each year from overdoses , but their politicians dont close their Southern Border where all the drugs are coming in from…. so , try not to single out South Africa as this seemingly oasis for Drug Dealers and complicit Government officials .. is there corruption in SA , yes …… is there massive corruption all over the world ,,,, yes .. and they doing it in Trillions of Dollars …..

  • Critic Master says:

    We all know that drug has been there in SA for a long time.
    but what i vehemently disagree with the society is the notion that it was brought by some immigrant.

    That is a big fat lie.

    We as south africans should agree to the fact that we are druggies.

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