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Who is the Western Cape’s new Anti-Gang Unit boss? It’s complicated (even the cops seem unsure)

Who is the Western Cape’s new Anti-Gang Unit boss? It’s complicated (even the cops seem unsure)
From left: Western Cape Provincial Police Commissioner Lieutenant General Thembisile Patekile. (Photo: Gallo Images / Die Burger / Jaco Marais) | The Anti-Gang Unit and Metro Police visit a gang hot spot in Manenberg, Cape Town. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach) | Members of the Anti Gang Unit.(Photo: EPA-EFE / Nic Bothma) | Western Cape MEC for Police Oversight and Community Safety Reagen Allen. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

The Western Cape’s police boss Thembisile Patekile announced in February that the Anti-Gang Unit had a new leader. When Daily Maverick asked who it was, the police provided the name of a person who the provincial government said had taken up a job with the City of Cape Town.

The Western Cape has a serious problem with gangs.

Crimes related to gangsterism should be prioritised and a specialised unit dealing with gangs should be in top shape.

That’s why a recent South African Police Service (SAPS) announcement that the Anti-Gang Unit (AGU) in the province had a new boss came as welcome news.

But it’s not clear what has happened to that boss.

Daily Maverick has established that even some officers linked to the AGU are unsure of who is heading the unit. A few names are doing the rounds.

Public announcement

On 23 February 2024, News24 reported that Western Cape police commissioner Lieutenant-General Thembisile Patekile announced that the province’s AGU would receive an additional 47 officers and, importantly, that a new head had been appointed.

The announcement was made when the Western Cape’s quarterly crime statistics were presented.

According to the News24 report, the new AGU head, who was not named, was meant to start work the following Monday, presumably 26 February.

A few days later, on 1 March, Daily Maverick asked the Western Cape police for the identity of the new AGU head.

Provincial police spokesperson Colonel Andrè Traut replied: “Brigadier Joseph Raboliba is the commander of the Anti-Gang Unit in the Western Cape.”

Daily Maverick contacted Raboliba with a request for an interview. He referred this journalist back to the Western Cape police’s media centre.

Employed elsewhere

It then emerged, based on information from sources with knowledge of policing issues, that Raboliba may have instead accepted a job with the City of Cape Town.

Daily Maverick alerted the Western Cape police media office to this and checked with Western Cape MEC for Police Oversight and Community Safety, Reagen Allen, if he knew where Raboliba was employed.

Late on 1 March, Allen responded that “the brigadier” (who he did not refer to by name) had taken up a job with the city.

Allen said he had heard that from the police service.

“SAPS informed me that the brigadier has taken up a position in the city,” he said.

“On a personal note, this can only bode well for him. I wish him all the best.”

In an eNCA interview in February, after Patekile’s announcement that the AGU had a new head, Allen was on record welcoming the appointment of a brigadier whose background he was familiar with.

Watch more here: Western Cape anti-gang unit receives new members

This suggests that if Raboliba had indeed been hired by the city, it was after Patekile announced the appointment of a new AGU head. This means the city possibly poached him from the police.

Several SAPS officers have left to work for the city.

In his 1 March response to Daily Maverick, Allen said the SAPS needed to appoint an AGU head “with great urgency.” He was therefore of the view that the AGU did not have a boss.

Read more in Daily Maverick: DA’s Geordin Hill-Lewis takes over Cape Town’s mayoral chain — and inherits party political spat over policing

“The AGU is the leading cog in combating, disrupting and stopping all gang activities,” Allen said.

“This is a unit that is also severely under-resourced. 

“This is part of the reason why we continue to call for the devolution of policing powers to a capable provincial government such as ourselves, as we will ensure that this unit is capacitated and resourced as required.”

On Monday, 4 March, Daily Maverick again asked the Western Cape police’s media liaison team for the name of the AGU head. There was no response.

Raboliba did not reply to a message sent on Monday asking if he had signed up with the City of Cape Town.

On Tuesday morning, Daily Maverick repeated its question to the provincial police’s media liaison team. An officer subsequently said the query had been escalated.

A response was not received by the time of publication.

western cape anti-gang unit boss

Police Minister Bheki Cele addresses South African Police Service Antim-Gang Unit members. (Photo: Gallo Images / Roger Sedres)

Daily Maverick understands that, as of this week, some AGU officers were also unsure of who was heading the unit.

Timing 

The Western Cape AGU has been the centre of controversy for other reasons.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Police were hung out to dry after President Ramaphosa’s 2018 Anti-Gang Unit launch fanfare

The AGU was launched in November 2018 about six months before the 2019 general elections, and Patekile’s recent announcement that the AGU had a new boss comes ahead of key elections on 29 May.

The AGU has also been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

Corruption

On 1 March, an AGU officer was one of two SAPS members arrested in connection with a truck that was hijacked in 2022 while transporting perlemoen.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Cape Town cops arrested for Mandrax smuggling and abalone hijacking worth R500,000

A former AGU policeman, Ashley Tabisher, was arrested for alleged corruption and is now among a group on trial for crimes relating to the September 2020 assassination of AGU detective Charl Kinnear.

The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) has previously made scathing findings against the unit.

Watchdog findings

Ipid’s findings, dated May 2022 and which Daily Maverick reported on a few months later, related to why Charl Kinnear was not provided with adequate protection before he was assassinated outside his Cape Town home.

Those findings, which were initially widely reported on, were subsequently deemed Top Secret.

Read more in Daily Maverick: ‘We were lied to’ – The fiasco of ‘Top Secret’ Ipid report into the assassination of senior cop Charl Kinnear

Daily Maverick previously reported that, in its findings, the cop watchdog suggested to Police Minister Bheki Cele that he “strongly consider the disbandment of the Western Cape AGU unit and replace it with a task team consisting of members from different provinces to combat gangsterism, drug trafficking and human trafficking”.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Disband the Western Cape Anti-Gang Unit, police watchdog recommends to Bheki Cele

The AGU, Ipid had said, needed reinforced vehicles. Also, members were not properly trained for protection duties.

In general, the unit was lacking “ablution and guard facilities” and needed more staff.

The AGU’s former head, Andre Lincoln, who had health issues, retired at the end of October 2021. (After his retirement, SAPS did not publicly announce who was tasked with running the AGU, even in an interim capacity.)

Ipid had also made findings against Lincoln, including that he could be charged with misconduct over the Kinnear security matter.

Lincoln, meanwhile, claimed earlier that the AGU had at one point undertaken to protect Kinnear, but that the security detail was withdrawn as the members were needed elsewhere.

In a Labour Court matter relating to action taken against Lincoln over Kinnear’s security, he said in an affidavit that “the charges [against me] are plainly ridiculous and are nothing more than retribution”. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Alan Watkins says:

    Well either they are concealing the name and hiding the man for his own protection (a pretty smart move), or they are just incompetent and will probably struggle to appoint a head in the next six months (the dumb option). Hey this is the SAPS, have they ever done anything smart?

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