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SAPS IN CRISIS

Cape Town cops arrested for Mandrax smuggling and abalone hijacking worth R500,000

Cape Town cops arrested for Mandrax smuggling and abalone hijacking worth R500,000
The South African Police make an arrest in Cape Town. (Photo: Gallo Images/Roger Sedres)

Three Cape Town officers, including a member stationed at the Anti-Gang Unit, have been arrested. Suspected of possible criminal and cop collusion, one was detained for drug dealing, while two were taken into custody in connection with an abalone truck hijacking.

Corruption in the Western Cape police service has been flagged several times.

In October 2022, a Western Cape High Court judgment even warned that 28s gangsters may have infiltrated the SAPS in the province and its management.

Now two sets of arrests again point to collusion between criminals and cops in the Western Cape.

Taken down

The crackdowns happened over two days.

One involved police investigators using cellphone records to pinpoint where two colleagues were at the time crimes were committed. Those cops were also suspected of using official marked police vehicles, pointing to how brazen they were when allegedly breaking the law.

On Saturday, 2 March 2024, Western Cape police spokesperson Frederick van Wyk said the two officers were arrested during “a planned take-down operation” carried out by a team including Crime Intelligence members.

“The team arrested one member at Sea Point SAPS, and the other member at Anti-Gang Unit, Faure,” he said. Van Wyk added that the two were expected to appear in the Somerset West Magistrate’s Court on Monday, 4 March.

Their arrests related to an incident that happened nearly two years ago.

Abalone truck targeted

Van Wyk explained that on 10 August 2022, a truck had been transporting abalone worth R500,000 from the Buffelsjag Abalone Farm, which is situated in the town of Bredasdorp.

The truck was headed towards Cape Town International Airport as the abalone was set to be exported. While it was on the N2 highway, Van Wyk said “two marked police vehicles with sirens and flashing blue lights” approached the truck from behind.

The occupants of those vehicles were dressed in police uniform and confronted the truck driver and its crew.

“Both the crew members were requested to hand their cellular telephones over to the police members,” Van Wyk said.

“Two firearms, a rifle and handgun, were taken from the possession of the one crew member of the truck.

“The driver was put in the back of one of the police vehicles, while his passengers were placed in the back of the other police vehicle and driven away from the scene.”

Cop vehicles traced

Van Wyk said those who had been on the truck were later released “in a bush area” in the Cape Town suburb of Mitchells Plain.

As for the truck, it was abandoned at Wolfgat Nature Reserve in the same suburb. The R500,000 abalone consignment was stolen from the truck.

Police started investigating a hijacking case. 

Van Wyk said the two police vehicles that had approached the truck were allegedly “used by members of Operation Restore”. According to a 2022 SAPS press release, Operation Restore was “an initiative to address crime in identified areas.” 

“Both vehicles’ aerial vehicle location (AVLs) placed the vehicles at the different crime scenes,” Van Wyk said.

Cell records obtained

“The drivers of the vehicles were identified, and their cellular telephone records were obtained.” Those records also placed the drivers at or near the different crime scenes.

“It was also established that both the members were off duty at the time of the incident but were authorised to be in possession of the marked police vehicles,” Van Wyk said. 

Operation Restore — which it appears the two officers were part of, based on SAPS press releases — continues in the Western Cape.

This could mean that the two arrested officers, following the truck hijacking in 2022, could have been involved in subsequent police crime-fighting operations, despite the fact they may have been involved in crimes themselves.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Six cops in gang-ridden Western Cape arrested for ‘stealing perlemoen’ and escorting drugs for criminals

The ambushing of trucks transporting abalone has happened previously in the Western Cape. Police officers have also previously been arrested for abalone-related crimes.

On Saturday, 2 March 2024, Western Cape police commissioner Lieutenant General Thembisile Patekile, speaking about the two latest arrests, said corruption would not be tolerated.

A Cape Town police officer was arrested for dealing in Mandrax and other drugs in March 2024. (Photo: South African Police Service)

Mandrax in a backpack

Meanwhile, another police officer was taken into custody earlier that morning.

Van Wyk said a tipoff was received about possible illegal firearms being transported in a taxi in Beaufort West.

Acting on that information, officers in Beaufort West identified a white Toyota Verso taxi, which was being driven to the town of Murraysburg, and stopped it along the N1.

Read more in Daily Maverick: SA’s Narcos Capture – the Mandrax trafficker and ‘wanted terrorist’ matrix haunting the ANC, Zuma, Guptas

Van Wyk said when the taxi was searched, drugs, including 1,006 full Mandrax tablets were found, along with 11 half tablets, 16 quarter dagga tables and 502 grams of tik.

The drugs were worth about R226,475.

“The drugs were found in the driver’s backpack,” Van Wyk said. “The 44-year-old male suspect, who happens to be a SAPS member and stationed… [in the Cape Town suburb of] Diep River was arrested for dealing in drugs.”

That officer was expected to appear in the Beaufort West Magistrate’s Court on Monday, 4 March. 

Drugs, taxis and cops

It is not the first time a police officer has been suspected of drug smuggling.

In October 2022, Judge Daniel Thulare delivered worrying findings in a judgment handed down in the Western Cape High Court.

The judgment, which said evidence suggested the 28s gang had infiltrated the Western Cape’s police, was against a former cop Alfonso Cloete, and another accused, Elcardo Adams.

It said the two knew each other via the taxi industry. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels – Untangling the Judge Thulare judgment warning of cop collusion with gangsters

According to Thulare’s judgment, Cloete was a cop who was previously “dismissed … for bringing the police into disrepute after he was arrested for … intimidation charges” relating to the taxi industry. 

Thulare’s judgment alleged: “As a known police official, it was not easy for people to suspect him. [Cloete] and his vehicle were also used to transport drugs.” DM

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