Fear grips SA’s judiciary as syndicates use 'mafia style' tactics to kill lawyers
News / 3 December 2019, 09:06am / Vincent Cruywagen
Cape Town - Fear is stalking the corridors of the judiciary and police precincts after a fourth lawyer was gunned down and a detective and three judges who are connected to criminal cases before the courts, involving high profile gangsters, are under police protection.
The Institute for Security Studies said crime syndicates and members of organised crime were taking out members within the legal fraternity and South African Police Services, sending out a message that none of the office bearers were safe.
The institute’s Johan Burger’s comments follow the slaying of advocate Vernon Jantjies on Sunday night at Clock Towers in Lentegeur.
Jantjies, who represented Glenda Bird, sister of Fadwaan “Vet” Murphy - an alleged drug dealer kingpin - was shot execution style in what many said was a hit. A police source said Jantjies was first shot several times in the back and when he hit the ground his attacker shot him multiple times in the upper body.
Jantjies is the fourth lawyer dealing with high-profile cases who was shot execution style. On November 7, 2016, prominent attorney Noorudien Hassan was shot in his car outside his home in Lansdowne. City lawyer Pete Mihalik was gunned down in October 2018 after dropping off his children at Reddam House Atlantic Seaboard School in Green Point. In May this year, criminal attorney David Mbazwana was shot dead at a spaza shop in Khayelitsha in what looked like a robbery.
“What I read from these types of attacks by syndicates and members of organised crime is that they are inclined to target people within the legal fraternity and police officers.
“These are high crime syndicates with international links who are known to take out their opposition. They take out contracts and with that same brazen attitude they also want to take out officers in the legal fraternity and the police,” said Burger.
“There is a growing confidence amongst the crime syndicates and a belief that they can continue to cause mayhem because of the inability to arrest and successfully prosecute them. It has an intimidating effect on the legal fraternity and these crime syndicates are sending out a message that no one in the legal fraternity is safe. We had a case in Gauteng where a Judge hearing a sensitive matter requested for extra police presence in his courtroom.”
According to Burger, syndicates in South Africa have adopted the Italian mafia style where they target the legal fraternity and police officers. In Italy the cars of judges are blown up.
Judiciary spokesperson Nathi Mncube confirmed that at least three judges are under protection following threats. However, police spokesperson Novela Potelwa was reluctant to speak about the amount of police officers receiving protection and said: “I’m not at liberty to speak about the protection of police officers.”
It was also reported over the weekend that detective Charl Kinnear is under police protection following information that his name appears on a hit list drawn up by gangsters in the underworld.
A source close to the investigation into the death of Jantjies said: “We believe that Jantjies was taken out by members of the underworld. We got an idea who ordered the hit but more information will be revealed once the investigation is concluded.”
Andrew Breitenbach, chairperson of the Cape Bar Council, said it was shocked by the news of the murder of yet another member of the Cape Town legal community.
Meanwhile, arguments in the trial of alleged drug kingpin Murphy, facing more than 200 charges relating to his alleged drug empire, racketeering and money laundering, was postponed after the prosecution and legal team representing Murphy and the other accused informed acting judge Diane Davis of the tragic events.
Davis said: “We were supposed to continue with arguments and in the light of the death of advocate Jantjies the defence needs time to arrange for a legal representative to represent Glenda Bird in this matter. In view of these events the proceedings was postponed to December 17 to confirm a new lawyer for Bird.”