It all started in 2012 with a persistent caller claiming to be an underworld figure who wanted to be interviewed. Investigative journalist Caryn Dolley agreed to the interview. Now, seven years later, she has published a fast-paced, hard-hitting book about the battles playing out in the Cape Town underworld to dominate the security trade.
The Enforcers: Inside Cape Town’s Deadly Nightclub Battles (Jonathan Ball) traces the history of nightclub security in the city and the country, as well as its current and historical links to rogue police officers and intelligence officials.
There have long been suspicions of links between the state and organised crime in South Africa, and Dolley’s book builds on these. For example, the parallels between former apartheid-era cop Ferdi Barnard and Western Cape police officer Major General Andre Lincoln are obvious – both worked undercover in the dark underbelly of organised crime in South Africa. But while Barnard revelled in and embraced the lifestyle, Lincoln insists he’s been treated unfairly because of the links between the political elite and organised crime that he exposed.
Another senior police officer, Western Cape detective head Major General Jeremy Vearey has faced similar repercussions for exposing what he believed to be links between the state and the criminal underworld in the Western Cape. Vearey was in charge of an investigation into weapons disappearing from police custody and landing up in the hands of gangsters in the Western Cape.
The consequences of this type of police corruption can be seen every day on the Cape Flats. New Frame has tracked the devastating reign of violence by gangsters on the Cape Flats, with at least 900 people murdered in the impoverished area since the start of the year. The total rises to more than 1 600 looking at the province more broadly.
One might wonder what murders on the Cape Flats have in common with nightclub security in the City Bowl. But Dolley’s book clearly shows the links between various criminal enterprises and syndicates in the province.
Dolley writes: “As more figures enter the shadowy waters of organised crime, rivals become more wary and new allegiances are formed, and this in turn means various types of organised crime are brought together and start interweaving to create intricate overlapping criminal circles – perlemoen (abalone) poaching and the trade in crystal methamphetamine (locally known as tik), for example; or the illicit tobacco and steroid trades.
“In these symbiotic and burgeoning relationships, one crime feeds off the other and various crimes become intertwined, so if a perlemoen-poaching kingpin is murdered, say, retaliation may not necessarily target a rival perlemoen poacher or an obviously related grouping, but may be aimed at a figure who’s an associate of the kingpin but involved in another illicit trade.”
The tentacles of organised crime have spread to all corners of society, as Dolley’s book shows. But more strikingly, the brains that are often behind these criminal enterprises don’t hide in the dark. They are masquerading as legitimate businessmen.
Nightclubs in Cape Town traditionally used the services of controversial businessmen Andre Naude and Mark Lifman for security. But a few years ago, a younger and at the time unknown businessman, Nafiz Modack, started taking over nightclub security in Cape Town.
These seemingly legitimate businessmen all have links to the underworld, from Sexy Boys boss Jerome “Donkey” Booysen, who has miraculously survived numerous assassination attempts, to other controversial figures such as Cyril Beeka and Yuri “the Russian” Ulianitski.
Dolley’s book, while reading like a fast-paced crime thriller, tracks the links between these worlds, and how the fight for power and muscle in the underworld is linked with other criminal enterprises. Muscle and power essentially guarantee influence in the murky dealings happening outside of our focus.
The Enforcers goes into detail about Modack’s obsession with power and influence, and meetings with high-level police officers, including Northern Cape police commissioner Risimati Shivuri and provincial head of the Hawks Patrick Mbotho, and notorious criminal boss Radovan Krejcir.
But investigating and exposing these shady links don’t come without danger. Dolley has faced numerous death threats and intimidation because of her exposés on the criminal underworld.
“The first apparent threat was received via email in May 2017 while compiling an article on a meeting between a suspected underworld figure and a senior policeman,” said Dolley.
“I was tipped off about the meeting, took photographs of the two together and when approached for comment via email, the suspected underworld figure replied with a photograph of me at the location where the meeting was held and the subject line ‘we have eyes every whr.’ (sic). He apologised if it came across as threatening.”
The next one came while she was reporting on a massive firearms smuggling investigation, the same one for which Vearey faced repercussions.
“I received an anonymous SMS saying: “Ms doley!That. same. guns. that. the. cops. sold. is. going. to. be. used. on. your. head. at. work. or. your. house. or. your. mom. house. and. your. dog. (sic).
“In both cases my employer at the time provided temporary private security for me and in both instances the threats were reported on, so [they] were highlighted in the public domain. In both instances I was doing my job so I didn’t stop reporting to avoid potential threats.
“It was good to keep in mind that a threat is just that, a threat and a potentially empty warning. At the same time, in the case of the anonymous threat, I didn’t know who I was potentially up against,” she said.
Despite the threats, Dolley persisted with years of reporting on these stories and developments, as well as the book. But she had to take extra precautions. Being aware of these dangers has also made Dolley conscious of the people who aren’t able to leave the suburbs ravaged by crime and violence.
“Over the years, as a reporter focusing significantly on crime, I’ve been into gang-ravaged areas, been present when shootings have occurred, been present when armed men gathered in the city centre as part of a convoy and during a peak in tensions relating to nightclub security.
“As a reporter, I can leave a gang-stricken area and I know the potential danger involving so-called bouncer wars. The cruel reality is that many residents in the Western Cape are trapped, simply based on where they live, in gang-ravaged areas.
“When it comes to visiting the tourist-dense city centre, people may not be aware of the dangers they’re inadvertently exposing themselves to.”