/ 28 August 2007

Cape gangs: Targeting the untouchables

Organised crime in the Western Cape has reached such proportions that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is appointing 18 dedicated advocates and prosecutors to focus exclusively on it.

Livingston Sakata, head of the NPA’s organised crime component, says organised crime is an epidemic in the province, mainly because of gangs and the established culture of gangsterism.

It is estimated that 150 000 people belong to 100 gangs on the Cape Flats. Some gangs date back to the 1940s.

‘It’s difficult to tackle crime syndicates in the Cape because of the intertwined relationship between organised crime and gangsterism. Often gang leaders are established members of the community, enjoying its respect and protection,” Sakata says.

The culture and scale of gangs are unique to the Western Cape, demanding a unique approach to crime.

It is the first province boasting such a unit and the only one where the police have set up a ‘high-flyer unit”, specifically targeting crime kingpins.

Although the NPA’s organised crime unit and the South African Police Service’s high-flyer unit work together investigating and prosecuting crime kingpins or high-flyers, the police identify the individuals or syndicates to be targeted. ‘Our computer system throws up profiles of people operating across station borders. We start looking at those individuals — our approach is to target individuals,” says the head of the organised crime and high-flyer unit, Director Stanley Sibitla.

‘Our work is intelligence-driven. We’re not interested in the little guy selling tik — we target the supplier, the guy who makes the money,” he says.

One of Sibitla’s investigators, Captain Heinrich Cockrill, testified during a high-flyer’s bail application last week: ‘High-flyers are people identified in the crime underworld as untouchable. These people use others to do their dirty work so as to keep their own hands clean.”

Sibitla says high-flyers all fit a similar profile: they are wealthy; they usually don’t live in the areas where they commit their crimes; and they’re well-established and often held in high esteem by their communities. They provide means to the poor and therefore the community feels protective towards them. Usually they are affiliated with gangs — often with the numbers 26, 27 or 28 prison gangs.

Drugs are the main currency of the gangs — peddling drugs is the most lucrative activity. But nightclubs, abalone poaching, robberies, shops and garages are run by the kingpins too — mainly to launder money. Increasingly police are seeing crime bosses getting involved in the property market as well.

Organised crime has affected the turbulent Western Cape politics. When Premier Ebrahim Rasool came to power in 2002, he and his Minister for Safety and Security, Leonard Ramatlakane, announced their ‘war on gangs and the gangs culture”.

On Rasool’s insistence — and because normal policing and investigation methods seldom work in the successful prosecution of these criminals — the police established the high-flyer unit, an elite group of senior detectives targeting the crime bosses. This unit is seen as Rasool’s creation and he has staked a lot of political capital in it.

Rasool and Ramatlakane received death threats, allegedly made by Chinese triads, in 2004. Afterwards Ramatlakane spent R347 716 on security upgrades at his home, causing an outcry in the legislature. Parliament’s standing committee on public accounts recommended that Ramatlakane pay the money back.

During the vote in the legislature on the issue, Rasool’s own party voted with the DA, supporting the call for Ramatlakane to refund the money, exacerbating the bitter political divide in the Western Cape ANC, where Rasool and Ramatlakane are close political allies.

With community safety’s annual budget of more than R200-million, the high-flyer unit has 25 senior investigating officers and an undisclosed number of informers and sources working for it.

Ramatlakane described the province’s crime scene: ‘Gangsters have become the foot soldiers of a much more sophisticated underworld economy, engaging in serious and violent crime, money laundering, human trafficking, drugs peddling and arms smuggling.
But, despite the establishment of the unit in 2003 and the fact that all relevant agencies — the SAPS, the NPA, National Intelligence Agency, the South African Revenue Service — signed a memorandum of understanding to tackle organised crime in the province, most of Cape Town’s known crime kingpins are still outside prison.

‘Our investigations take a long time — sometimes up to four years. We have to rely on intelligence and get people inside the syndicate who can supply us with information and ultimately testify for us. Because we have to rely so heavily on insiders — or 204s as they are called — our witnesses often are co-perpetrators. They’re often criminal themselves and not very reliable witnesses in the classic sense of the word, which makes our jobs in court very hard,” Sibitla says.

He says the unit’s biggest problem is that presiding magistrates don’t understand ‘the nature of the beast” before them. ‘Our courts often don’t believe the 204s because they’re looking for state witnesses with clean hands and no criminal record. They don’t give consideration to the world these guys operate in,” Sibitla says.

The NPA’s Sakata identifies another problem in bringing the high-flyers to book: ‘It’s very difficult to catch these guys because they buy everything in cash — there’s seldom a paper trail one can follow. Cash is king with these guys — they buy houses in Plattekloof and Constantia and pay cash. They pay cash for new cars. They set up companies and use other people’s names to acquire properties and they can afford top legal opinion to advise them on business strategies.”

Senior Superintendent Kishor Harri, a detective and staff officer with the high-flyer unit, says crime bosses and the high-flyers are seemingly untouchable and difficult to prosecute because there are literally ‘thousands” of people protecting them. ‘Our communities are not unified against crime and criminals. The crime bosses are often the hand that feeds a particular community. These kingpins buy patronage and large sections of certain communities rely on their goodwill, job opportunities and handouts. It’s very difficult to get witnesses to testify against these people.”

At least eight high-flyers are currently appearing in various courts across the Cape Peninsula at present. In at least three of these cases, charges of police complicity have been made by the crime bosses.

One of them is Quinton Marinus, or ‘Mr Big” as he was dubbed by Provincial Police Commissioner Mzwandile Petros.

Marinus, who is out on bail, is facing 47 charges in the Cape High Court, ranging from money laundering to abalone poaching and murder. His R8-million estate — including his house in Plattekloof, his ‘Biggies Inn” shebeen, properties in Macassar and Bellville, two BMWs, two Mercs, long-haul refrigerator vehicles, two boats, as well as his savings in bank accounts, shares, insurance policies, jewellery, pistols and other firearms — are under curatorship.

Marinus claims he is the victim of a corrupt high-flyer investigator, Captain Chris Rossouw, who has links with the Chinese triads. Marinus has laid a complaint with the Independent Complaints Directorate. Its finding is expected at the end of next month.

An alleged member of Marinus’s syndicate, Andrew van der Walt, is a former high-flyer investigator who is charged with arranging guns and driver’s licences for the 14-­member syndicate. He was arrested with Marinus.

‘A couple of heads are going to roll because the police are corrupt and are trying now to frame me. I’m a man van staal [man of steel] and not a gangster. The cops are investigating only coloureds in this province — how many names on their list are of whites and blacks? It’s only the coloureds and the foreigners they’re targeting in the Cape,” Marinus says.

Well-known high-flyers

Igshaan Davids (right), alias ‘Sanie the American”

  • Drugs are allegedly main source of income.
  • Has allegedly been a big source of ‘importing” Mandrax and, increasingly, tik, from Jo’burg.
  • Strong gang affiliation and operates in the Kensington area.
  • Regarded as the leader of the 5 000-strong American gang.
  • Has connections with the Chinese triads — allegedly receiving his drugs from them.
  • Operates on a smaller scale than, say, Nazier Kapdi.

Bonniface Ndibe

  • Nigerian national with strong American gang connection. He and assassinated American gang boss Gavin Atkins were allies.
  • Said to be making millions in the cocaine business.
  • Also owns a toilet-making factory in Cape Town and operates and lives in Milnerton area.

Ferdie Jacobs

  • In his younger days had gang connections — at present no known gang connections.
  • Regarded as very wealthy man who allegedly made money from drugs — mainly Mandrax and now tik — and now puts cash into buying property.
  • Has property in Tokai and Steenberg.

Igshaan Macus, alias ‘Saan Oog”

  • Strong connection with the Americans.
  • Allegedly makes money through drugs and violent crime.

Cyster Williams, alias ‘Eier”

  • Relatively wealthy man from Elsies River who used to work closely with Ernie Lastig.

Igshaan Davids, alias ‘Sanie the American”

  • Drugs are allegedly main source of income.
  • Has allegedly been a big source of ‘importing” Mandrax and, increasingly, tik, from Jo’burg.
  • Strong gang affiliation and operates in the Kensington area.
  • Regarded as the leader of the 5 000-strong American gang.
  • Has connections with the Chinese triads — allegedly receiving his drugs from them.
  • Operates on a smaller scale than, say, Nazier Kapdi.

Ralph Stansfield (uncle of deceased Colin Stansfield, who was the founder of The Firm and a multi-millionaire gang boss)

  • Alleged to make his money through drugs and violent crime.
  • Also owns a garage in Bishop Lavis.
  • The Stansfield family allegedly flooded the Cape with Mandrax.
  • Wealthy man living in Constantia and is said to own other properties.

Boy Dias

  • No known gang affiliation; started off running a breakdown business.
  • Allegedly ran a house-breaking syndicate in Tableview.
  • Trademark was allegedly doing robberies dressed as policeman.
  • Alleged to be wealthy, having branched recently into abalone and drugs.

Faizel Manuel, alias ‘Sheg”

  • Strong gang affiliation and one of leaders of the Ghetto Kids gang.
  • Allegedly made large amounts of money from Mandrax and, increasingly, from tik.
  • Is said to be wealthy, owning properties in Hanover Park.

Mujahid Daniels, alias ‘Mujait”

  • Among the alleged top 10 high-flyer gangsters in Cape Town and Junior Mafia leader.
  • Involved in buildings, garages, spraypainting and panelbeating shops, and nightclubs.
  • Based in Woodstock, from where he operates.
  • Allegedly makes his money from drugs and violent crime operations.
  • Wealthy man who also has business interests and owns various properties.

High-flyers on trial

Nazier Kapdi

  • Drugs are allegedly chief source of income — mainly tik and Mandrax.
  • Also importing drugs from India.
  • Very wealthy, alleged to be a couple of million rand strong.
  • No known gang affiliation.
  • Currently in court on drug charges following the police seizure of about R1,4-million worth of tik.
  • Jailed after murdering one of his henchmen and released in 2002.

Brothers Kaldumalla and Sedika Madatt

  • Drugs and diamonds are allegedly main source of income.
  • Said to have made large amounts of money selling tik and Mandrax.
  • Sedika is currently in court on drug and diamond-smuggling charges.
  • Wealthy; own property in Constantia.
  • No known gang affiliation.

Christopher Patterson, alias ‘Ougat”

  • Self-confessed drug dealer.
  • Tik is main source of income.
  • Leader of the Wonder Kids in Kensington.
  • During a sting operation sold 100g packages of tik to undercover police.
  • He and his wife are out on R10 000 bail each.
  • Also facing charges relating to the shooting of four young men — two of whom died — earlier this year.

Ernie Solomons, alias ‘Lastig”

  • Alleged 28 prison gang leader with strong ties with the gang, The Firm.
  • Allegedly the biggest abalone smuggler in Western Cape and a very wealthy man.
  • Caught with 1kg of tik during a police sting operation.
  • Said to have made millions through Mandrax, rocks (cocaine) and tik.
  • Recently also more involved in the property market.

Chris Arendse, alias ‘Langkop”

  • Strong affiliation with 28 prison gang.
  • Allegedly operates housebreaking syndicate focusing on business properties, mainly targeting cigarette and alcohol outlets.
  • He is said to be a very wealthy man who owns a Mr Burger shop, a nightclub in Parow and a brothel.
  • Said to be involved with alcohol and cigarettes because the drug trade is ‘too hot”.

Quinton Marinus, alias ‘Mr Big”

  • Alleged abalone, drugs and diamond smuggler and biggest threat to Ernie Solomons’s operation.
  • No formal gang affiliation but has ties with the 28 prison gang and the Americans.
  • Marinus, his wife and several others are on trial in the Cape High Court in connection with murder, transportation of illegal abalone and drugs, racketeering, robbery and corruption.
  • Wealthy; owns property in Plattekloof and trucks in transport business. Imports clothing from China.
  • Alleged strong links with Chinese triad associates who supply drugs in exchange for abalone.
  • Said to be working with a Chinese national called Pak Lau, alias ‘Stanley” or ‘Peter”, who is said to be a kingpin in the smuggling of drugs and abalone.

William Stevens, alias ‘Red”

  • A ‘general” in the 27 prison gang.
  • Regarded as the force behind Ernie Solomons.
  • Allegedly involved with abalone and drugs — mainly tik.
  • Was recently arrested and charged with dealing in tik and cocaine.


Tony Liang

  • Chinese syndicate member arrested recently with three Chinese accomplices in U-Seng restaurant in Tableview.
  • Allegedly bartered tik for abalone.
  • Arrested after allegedly trying to sell 2kg of tik to police in a sting operation.


Shamiel Eyssen

  • Leader of the Fancy Boys.
  • He and eight of the Fancy Boys were recently found guilty of a string of offences and charges under the Prevention of Organised Crime Act.
  • They were found guilty of racketeering activities, housebreaking, robbery and unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition and receiving stolen property.
  • They ran a housebreaking syndicate targeting upmarket homes in Camps Bay, Newlands, Milnerton, Durbanville and Constantia.
  • They allegedly sold large quantities of dagga, Mandrax and Ecstasy.

List of high-flyers was compiled by Mail & Guardian reporters