South Africa

ORGANISED CRIME ANALYSIS

Western Cape multimillion-rand Mandrax confiscations point to established gang networks in action

Western Cape multimillion-rand Mandrax confiscations point to established gang networks in action
Police interceptions of Mandrax in the Western Cape point to how old smuggling networks - identified decades ago - may still be operational. (Photos: SAPS)

Police interceptions of Mandrax in the Western Cape indicate that old smuggling networks are still operational. Some arrests hint at which gangs dominate these narco-conduits.

There have been several multimillion-rand confiscations of Mandrax — with some consignments found hidden in trucks — in the Western Cape this year.

The cases help identify which gangs are operational in this narco-trafficking arena.

Daily Maverick has established, based on information from sources with an understanding of South Africa’s drug smuggling networks, as well as arrests and court cases, that three of the key gangs involved in Mandrax smuggling are the 28s, the Mobsters and the Terrible Josters.

Read more in Daily Maverick: SA’s drug dons — where are they now plus the political suspicions surrounding them

Earlier this year, Daily Maverick published a series of articles on some of the biggest convicted or accused drug kingpins in South Africa.

Part of that series delved into the deep roots of Mandrax trafficking, which politics has played a role in shaping and that led to the Western Cape.

Related drug crimes are still prevalent in the province, and police officers there have been arrested for colluding with criminals. 

Drugs in trucks

In a drug bust last month, a truck that was travelling on the N1 in the Western Cape town of Laingsburg was pulled over by the police.

“The [SA Police Service] members ensued with a search of the driver and the truck, upon which they found 10 packets containing Mandrax concealed in a box and eight boxes containing compressed dagga,” said Western Cape police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Malcolm Pojie.

The truck driver was arrested in connection with the drugs, which the police said were worth about R3.54-million.

Laingsburg is along a route connecting Gauteng to the Western Cape.

Decades ago, trafficking networks also smuggled drugs from the former province to the latter. 

In other recent drug busts, R7-million worth of Mandrax was found in sealed boxes in a delivery truck stopped along the N1 at Laingsburg at the end of March; while in April, Mandrax worth about R2-million was found in a vehicle heading from the Eastern Cape to Cape Town, that police stopped along the N2 near Sir Lowry’s Pass.

The Hawks said that when the vehicle was searched, 50 packets of Mandrax were “found in a false compartment in the back”.

The driver was arrested.

In November, a suspected trafficker was detained after police officers found 61,000 Mandrax tablets, worth about R2.7-million, “in a false compartment inside [a] truck”.

The suspect had also been travelling from the Eastern Cape to Cape Town.

Ongoing problem

In a case from about six years ago, two drivers were arrested in Cape Town after they were caught allegedly handling nearly R3.3-million worth of Mandrax that had been smuggled from Gauteng.

They were detained after boxes of the drug consignment were offloaded from a truck and placed into a private vehicle in the Cape Town suburb of Kraaifontein.

At the time, the Hawks said 73 packets, each containing 1,000 Mandrax tablets, were seized. 

That 2018 case provides several clues about South Africa’s Mandrax trafficking networks.

Gangs

Parts of Kraaifontein, where the bust occurred, are strongholds of the Mobsters gang, which has ties to the 28s gang.

Daily Maverick has reported how the 28s are also linked to the gang conglomerate The Firm.

Colin Stanfield, of Cape Town, who has since died, was previously suspected of heading The Firm.

Read more in Daily Maverick: ‘The Firm’ grip of the 28s – from Colin Stanfield to fresh suspicions shaping SA’s drug scene

In September, Stanfield’s nephew Ralph Stanfield was arrested in a vehicle theft case in Cape Town. During the court proceedings it emerged that police believed he headed The Firm.

Ralph Stanfield was not charged in connection with drug activities in that case.

As for his uncle, in the 1990s there were investigations into whether Colin Stanfield, along with associates, was selling Mandrax on behalf of a group of politically connected businessmen in Johannesburg.

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

This suggests that the Mandrax trafficking conduit between Cape Town and Gauteng, which recent interceptions show is still in use, was in operation back then already.

Colin Stanfield and his South African associates were, in turn, believed to be linked to India’s Vicky Goswami, a convicted drug trafficker who once claimed to know ANC leaders.

This hints at how what is playing out locally is part of international organised crime.

Another gang involved in South Africa’s Mandrax trade is the Terrible Josters.

Shootings

In the Western Cape High Court, in a case involving allegations about the gang, a witness testified, “The criminal activities of the Terrible Josters are mostly focused on the sale of illegal drugs, namely ‘tik’ [methamphetamine] and Mandrax in certain areas of the Western Cape.”

Ernest Solomon, also known as Ernie Lastig, was suspected of being a Terrible Josters leader, and his name has been linked to criminal issues including the perlemoen trade, which is connected to drug dealing.

Daily Maverick understands that a 2017 case, involving two individuals being shot at on a road near a Cape Winelands town, may have been connected to fighting over drug smuggling between Terrible Josters and 28s gangsters.

Solomon himself was murdered in a shooting in Boksburg, Gauteng, in November 2020.

Police collusion

Beyond violence and arrests connected to drug trafficking, there are still concerns about corrupt police officers being involved in such criminal activity.

In the Western Cape, several trials are developing in which allegations of police officers colluding with criminal suspects are being addressed.

Take, for example, matters linked to Jerome Booysen, of Cape Town, who was once in court alleged to be the head of the Sexy Boys gang.

Read more in Daily Maverick: ‘Steroid King’ murder trial hears how crooked cop protected violent debt collector

He is an accused in two trials — one relates to a murder and one of his co-accused is a police officer. 

The second trial relates to allegations that Booysen headed the Jerome Booysen Enterprise that was involved in Mandrax dealing.

Meanwhile, other suspicions relating to police collusion have surfaced.

Read more in Daily Maverick: 28s gang ‘capture’ top Western Cape cops, prosecutors’ lives at risk – judge sounds corruption alarm

An October 2022 Western Cape Division of the High Court judgment, relating to a case about the Mobsters and 28s, found, “The [28s] gang had protection and assistance from corrupt members of the police. [This] included transportation of its drugs from court to prison”.

Policeman arrested, another jailed

In March this year, in what appeared to be an unrelated case, a police officer based in the Cape Town suburb of Diep River was arrested in Beaufort West for drug dealing.

A South African Police Service statement at the time said a taxi was stopped along the N1 and the driver, the police officer, was found with drugs including 1,006 full Mandrax tablets, more than 1,000 halved tablets and about 500g of tik. 

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

The drugs were worth around R226,475.

In another case, in 2019, Warrant Officer Walter Sinden, who had been an orderly at the Strand Magistrates’ Court, was sentenced to an effective five years in prison for drug dealing, corruption and defeating the administration of justice.

According to the National Prosecuting Authority, Sinden had “received and supplied drugs to prisoners in the court cells”.

He was arrested after an operation was set up involving him accepting 50 Mandrax tablets and R400 in cash. DM

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