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By Getrude Makhafola

Premium Journalist

How extortion syndicates are taking over Cape Town

Entrenched extortion networks are now targeting individuals, private vehicles and municipal workers.

From street vendors in Mitchells Plain and Khayelitsha to bar and restaurant owners in the CBD, extortionists are rapidly expanding in Cape Town.

The Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime (GI-TOC) report released on Wednesday paints a picture of a city that is gradually being taken over by the criminal underworld.

Cape Town’s nightclub extortion that started more than 20 years ago has become entrenched, with some expanding into other sectors.

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With a long history of gang violence, the Western Cape’s economic hub is being hard hit by extortionists who now target individuals, municipal workers and private vehicles.

‘Worrying expansion’

Although the country is experiencing a rise in extortion activities, Cape Town is a “host to a menacing shadow economy”, according to the GI-TOC.

“Money, services and goods are being extorted from an increasingly wide range of businesses, including spaza shops, nightclubs, construction and transport companies, as well as individuals.

“The range of sectors and people affected is widening – from street vendors selling their wares in Mitchells Plain or Khayelitsha, to the owners of bars and restaurants in the city centre, from construction companies building roads or houses, to municipal workers and contractors providing basic services.

“In certain parts of the city, even private vehicles have become targets,” says the report.

GI-TOC identifies the following extortion-hit sectors:

  • The nighttime extortion economy: While initially focused on the night club sector, extortion activities have expanded to include other businesses such as restaurants and coffee shops.
  • Transport: This has long existed within the minibus taxi industry in Cape Town, but has expanded exponentially to include buses, private transport and even private vehicles.
  • The township enterprise: Formal and informal businesses and individuals operating particularly in the Cape Flats, including the townships of Khayelitsha, Gugulethu and Nyanga. Municipal workers and contractors are also targeted.
  • Cape Town’s construction mafia: Syndicates target infrastructure projects and the construction sector. Methods have been copied and adapted from KwaZulu-Natal, similar extortion practices have spread to other parts of the country.

Furthermore, although the sectors are separately distinct, they are inter-linked as criminals move between them.

“Some figures within the CBD nighttime extortion are also involved in the construction mafia, transport extortion and, in areas under their control, particularly on the Cape Flats – the township enterprise extortion economy.

“Similarly, individuals involved in extortion in townships such as Khayelitsha and Gugulethu may have connections in the construction mafia or transport extortion.”

ALSO READ: Construction mafia: Companies adapt as extortion becomes normalised

In addition, extortionists often also engage in other forms of criminal activity, such as the illicit trade in firearms and drugs or armed robbery, the report said.

City’s history of extortion

By the late 1990s, protection rackets had gained prominence in the city nightlife, led by Cyril Beeka and his associates.

According to the report, several cycles of violence took place, linked to the rise of various criminal actors and their desire to assert dominance and control.

Following Beeka’s assassination in 2011, a new player, Mark Lifman, emerged, seeking to take over Beeka’s territory.

Lifman, André Naudé, Jerome ‘Donkie’ Booysen and Colin Booysen merged Beeka’s two security companies with a security company operated by Naudé to form Specialised Protection Services.

In 2017, the violence began again when Nafiz Modack and his associates, under The Security Group, began to take over the Lifman group’s security contracts.

The Saps in 2022 established two task forces in the Western Cape, one to deal with extortion and
the other to combat kidnapping.

However, the city has expressed concerns about lack of coordination and poor engagement with law enforcement authorities.

The report further notes that police, through the Hawks, provincial detective services and the Anti-Gang Unit have made some significant arrests of key figures.

They include Lifman and Modack and their associates, alleged 28s leader Stanfield and extortion kingpins – notorious Eastern Cape taxi boss Bonke Makalala and Yanga “Bara” Nyalara.

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