Reluctance of fearful victims to report extortion hampering investigations, police say
Cape Town – The police’s response to the extortion (protection fee) some businesses are forced to pay is often hampered by a fear-driven reluctance of victims to report these cases, police said.
“Inroads are being made and our endeavours to police extortion have resulted in numerous arrests in this regard. It is worthy to mention that the SAPS response in relation to investigations of the extortion incidents is often constrained by the reluctance of victims to report these cases to police.
“Fear often cited as the reason for the non-reporting of cases and information collated by police is often from third parties but not primary victims of extortion,” said police.
This emerged following the murder of a 28-year-old man who was shot dead on Monday in an alleged extortion-related incident at NY1 in Gugulethu.
A witness who asked to remain anonymous for fear of victimisation said that he saw the man leaving a shop owned by a foreign national with a bag that he believed had money, and a few seconds later gunshots went off.
“I was walking toward the shop when I saw a man leaving the shop with a black bag. As I walked closer, I saw a beige Corolla standing at the entrance, that’s when I saw an unknown man fire shots at the victim who was now inside his maroon Toyota RunX.
“I believe that the man who was shot was an extortionist and he was killed by a rival extortion group.”
The resident claimed that the man usually collected the “protection fee” around about the same date of every month.
“These guys always argue amongst each other as some don’t want to split the money equally,” he said.
Following the killing, Gugulethu Policing Forum (CPF) chairperson Thembinkosi Mjuza said he was alerted to a message being circulated on WhatsApp community groups, accusing him of being part of the extortionists.
However, the Cape Times could not establish its origin yesterday.
The message read: “People of Gugulethu must be careful of Thembinkosi Mjuza he is dangerous and hidden by community activists, but he is a criminal and involved in these Somalia (sic) protection fees and he is a friend with those Lower Crossroad guys who killed our sisters in that massacre at Ny78, where eight people died brutally. Our brother (the victim) also died this morning (Monday) here in NY1 because of this protection fee that Thembinkosi is involved too.”
Mjuza dismissed the allegations, saying it was part of a bigger plot by the Gugulethu Development Forum (GDF) to tarnish his good name.
“The development forums are involved in this thing, these issues are being distorted to paint me in a bad light.
“I’m a CPF chairperson and I am actively against this extortion. The sad part is that they are putting my life and my family at risk, my mother is not taking this well, and it’s not the first time they are plotting something against me. If I’m involved let them go to the police and we will meet in court.”
Responding to Mjuza, GDF secretary Vincent Domingo said: “If he says we are responsible for tarnishing his name then there are processes that need to be followed. Mjuza must bring evidence as to who in the GDF is responsible for this. I saw the circulating message and nothing was said about GDF. He must write to us and the allegations will be investigated, but as far as this goes, these are just baseless allegations.”
At least nine people have been murdered in connection with the alleged crime in townships recently.
Community leaders have accused the police of not being assertive in eradicating the phenomenon.
A Gugulethu community activist who asked to remain anonymous for fear of victimisation said: “ They (police) promised us that it would be handled, but that has not been done.”
Police spokesperson FC Van Wyk said that police were investigating the case of the NY1 murder.
“The circumstances surrounding this incident are being investigated by the police with no arrests yet.”
Extortion and related crime were high on the priority list of the Western Cape police and an operational plan to address the phenomena has been developed as an integrated law enforcement response by various stakeholders in the province, said police.
Anyone affected by extortion, or knows of an incident, has been encouraged to anonymously contact the Extortion Hotline on 021 466 0011.
Anyone with information about the NY1 incident can anonymously contact Crime Stop on 0860010111 or SMS Crime Line on 32211.