‘The Firm’ grip of the 28s – from Colin Stanfield to fresh suspicions shaping SA’s drug scene

‘The Firm’ grip of the 28s – from Colin Stanfield to fresh suspicions shaping SA’s drug scene
The names of Stanfield and Booysen crop up time and again in relation to South Africa’s drug scene, which can linked back to an apartheid-era chemical weapons programme. (Graphic: Jocelyn Adamson; Images: Midjourney AI)

Parts one and two of this series focused on State Capture suspicions and global suspects who tried dominating South Africa’s drug trade, plus a Cuban kingpin once detained in the US. Part three now looks at local gangs and how recent crimes have decades-old roots. 

In September 2023 a man was murdered in the Cape Town suburb of Valhalla Park, parts of which are 28s gang strongholds.

Cops went to the scene – an open field – and according to a 5 February 2024 response to Daily Maverick questions, Western Cape police spokesperson Captain Frederick van Wyk said: “Upon their arrival an adult male was found under a burned mattress. 

“It is believed that the man was shot and set alight during the course of the night.”

Daily Maverick has established that the case, as of February this year, was still under investigation.

A source who has knowledge of it said the killing may have been due to the 28s turning on the man, whose name police did not divulge, and that he was targeted because he was seen to have assisted individuals the 28s were after.

Writing on the wall

As if literally backing that up, in the background of a photograph of the murder scene, a wall can be seen.

Two of the many words graffitied on it say: “The Firm.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: The Firm: Gang with ‘deep drug roots’ surfaces in 28s accused Ralph Stanfield’s case

The Firm is a gang group with a strong 28s membership.

It came up recently in a case against alleged 28s gang boss Ralph Stanfield, who was arrested along with his wife Nicole Johnson in September last year, coincidentally a few weeks after the mattress murder in Valhalla Park.

They were charged for other crimes including car theft and, in Stanfield’s case, an attempted killing.

They have denied wrongdoing.

During previous court proceedings in that matter against them, which has grown to now involve six accused, an affidavit by the investigating officer, Lieutenant Colonel Christiaan van Renen, was read out.

It alleged two of the accused were “members of the criminal gang named The Firm, which is headed up by [Stanfield].”

The Firm

Van Renen’s affidavit makes it clear that the State believes, or at the very least certain police officers believe, Stanfield is the head of The Firm.

Daily Maverick has previously reported how Stanfield’s uncle Colin Stanfield was once suspected of being The Firm’s boss.

Colin’s right hand woman was Katy-Ann Arendse.

The duo was suspected of being deeply entrenched in dealing in Mandrax, an especially contentious drug in South Africa.

Under apartheid, the government manufactured it.

Names attached to this broader arena include that of Wouter Basson, who headed apartheid’s chemical and biological weapons programme Project Coast.

There are suspicions that some gangsters were used to disseminate drugs for apartheid figures.

Mandrax merchants





Mandrax Drug Dons Caryn Dolley

Mandrax is an especially contentious drug in South Africa and has been linked to the apartheid government’s chemical and biological weapons programme Project Coast, run by Wouter Basson. (Photo:iStock)

Dr Wouter Basson, who headed the apartheid government’s Project Coast. (Photo: Lulama Zenzile / Gallo Images / Die Burger)

There are further suspicions in police circles that in the 1980s and 1990s Colin was secretly working with the guidance of apartheid-era cops.

On the flipside, there are suspicions that later, some figures in the ANC who dealt in Mandrax to make money to fight apartheid were his puppet masters.

Last month, though, ANC spokesperson Mahlengi Bhengu-Motsiri emphatically denied the ANC had ever been involved in drug dealing, telling Daily Maverick it was “sick” that such “lies” were being referenced in 2024.

But suspicions – of politically driven individuals trying to get gangs on their side to do their bidding or to try and increase their power bases – persist, especially in South Africa’s gangsterism capital, the Western Cape. 

(The Mail & Guardian previously reported that then-president Jacob Zuma met several top gangsters in May 2011 as part of a plan to wrest control of the Western Cape from the DA to the ANC. Several sources insisted the meeting happened, while the ANC denied it.)

Rewind again to the 1990s. 

There were investigations into whether Colin Stanfield and those close to him were selling Mandrax on behalf of a group of politically connected businessmen in Johannesburg.

Those men were in turn believed to be linked to India’s Vicky Goswami, a convicted drug trafficker who once claimed to know ANC leaders.

Nearly three decades after investigations into Colin and co, in 2019, Goswami testified in a US court case about how he and Kenyan associates were recently hellbent on dominating South Africa’s drug trade. (See part one.)

This suggests drug conduits forged in the 1990s and earlier still exist.

Drugs from India

Colin, aside from suspicions about The Firm, had also been part of a group known as Core, which stood for Community Outreach. 

In the late 1990s it consisted of gang suspects ostensibly intent on creating peace.

The Booysen brothers of Cape Town fit in here.

Michael and Jerome Booysen, once identified in a court case as allegedly heading the Sexy Boys gang, were also part of Core.

That is according to a 2003 Western Cape High Court judgment focusing on Michael, who was convicted of a murder that happened in 1999.

Michael, based on the judgment, had alleged that Core started charging various businesses “protection money”.

In other words, its members were allegedly extorting businesses, crimes now prevalent across South Africa.

Michael, in the high court case he was convicted in, alleged that money made from that extortion was used to import drugs from India – this further backs suspicions that Colin was working with the likes of Vicky Goswami.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Another cousin of alleged 28s gang boss Ralph Stanfield murdered, this time while Stanfield in custody

Colin died due to cancer in 2004, six years after his ally, Arendse, was murdered in 1998.

His son, Noor Stephanus, was killed in a shooting in 28s gang hotspot Valhalla Park in November 2023.

That fits into the period between the start of October and the end of December last year, when 268 gang-related murders were recorded in South Africa.

Of those, the outright majority, 250 of the killings, were reported in the Western Cape.

Murders and shootings

Alleged gang boss Jerome ‘Donkie’ Booysen. (Photo: Adrian de Kock / Gallo Images); Jerome Booysen’s son Joel. (Photo: Facebook); Alleged underworld kingpin Nafiz Modack. (Photo: Jaco Marais / Gallo Images)

Meanwhile, the Booysen brothers, who according to the judgment against Michael, were part of Core along with Colin in the 1990s, are still facing legal issues.

Michael remains in jail despite trying to be released on parole in the murder case stemming from the 1990s.

As for Jerome, he is an accused in two big court cases.

The one case revolves around the August 2017 murder of steroid smuggler Brian Wainstein in his home the upmarket Cape Town suburb of Constantia – the same neighbourhood where Stanfield and Johson have a home, in which they were arrested last year.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Charges against murdered ‘Steroid King’ reveal a global web of crime cases

Violence circles this arena and extends to Stanfield.

In June 2017, a month before Wainstein’s assassination, Stanfield was wounded in a shooting in Gauteng.

Other accused individuals in the Wainstein murder case, aside from Jerome, include Cape Town organised crime suspect Mark Lifman and previously William “Red” Stevens.

Stevens, widely reputed to have been one of the most seasoned 27s gangsters in the Western Cape, was assassinated in 2021.

More Mandrax

As for Jerome, aside from the Wainstein murder case, he is also an accused in a second matter in which the state has alleged he was the head of the Jerome Booysen Enterprise that was involved in Mandrax dealing.

According to a 2021 statement on the South African Police Service website, the Hawks believed Jerome and his co-accused in that case were “the primary dealers and distributors of illegal drugs in the [Western Cape]”.

Mandrax, a drug central to that case, is what Colin Stanfield of The Firm was suspected of trafficking.

It is also what the apartheid government was involved in manufacturing and what, the ANC’s recent denials notwithstanding, opposing ANC figures were suspected of dealing in to raise funds to fight that regime – and what some on both sides may have continued with into democracy.  

Read more in Daily Maverick: Sexy Boys drug syndicate trial delayed due to Wainstein murder case crossover

Jerome is yet to go on trial for the Mandrax case and for the murder matter he is accused in.

Stanfield, like Jerome, is now also facing two major cases.

Double legal trouble

Ralph Stanfield and Nicole Johnson (Photo: Jaco Marais/Gallo Images/Die Burger)

Before his arrest along with Johnson in September 2023, the couple were detained in 2014 in a massive case involving allegations that corrupt police officers created fraudulent firearm licences for them as well as several others.

While they were not accused of drug dealing, the provisional charge sheet in that fraudulent gun licence case references the 28s gang and narcotics.

It says: “The 28[s] gang is a criminal organisation whose members and associates engaged in acts of violence, including murder, attempted murder, assault, theft, possession of stolen goods, possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition, malicious damage to property, witness intimidation and drug trafficking.”

Stanfield and Johnson, whose names are among those that also recently cropped up between construction mafia and extortion-style accusations, are yet to go on trial for that firearms licence case they were arrested for in 2014.

Four of their co-accused in that case have been murdered.

They are also yet to go on trial in the case stemming from last year in which Stanfield has been accused of car theft and attempted murder, and in which the investigating officer has pointed to him as heading The Firm. DM

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