The ‘price’ of protection in Cape Town’s CBD
Cape Town - Restaurants, cafes and hotels are the latest targets of an alleged protection racket in the Cape Town CBD. They have been told to “pay up or else”.
Business owners believe the strong-arm tactics are an attempt by underworld bosses to make up cash lost from nightclubs which were closed during lockdown.
Randolf Jorberg, chairperson of the Long Street Association and owner of Beerhouse, has issued a rallying call to other business owners in the nightlife district to band together against what he calls extortion, intimidation and racketeering.
While nightclubs and party destinations in the CBD have long been paying “protection fees”, for the first time daytime restaurants and coffee shops have been targeted, Jorberg said.
“In the last days, many businesses that never had to pay for protection have been approached by (Nafiz) Modack’s gang to start paying him, asking for up to R20k a month,” Jorberg said.
“Their bread-and-butter business is nightclubs and nightclubs are not trading. Seemingly, they are so desperate for turnover that they are going to regular restaurants and even coffee shops.”
Jorberg has taken the decision to shut Beerhouse out of fear for the safety of his staff, who have received threats. Other businesses have also been targeted but were reluctant to speak publicly.
Jorberg estimated that before lockdown, there were 200-300 businesses in the CBD paying a monthly retainer for “protection services”. Amounts ranged from R1 200 for a small bar to beyond R80 000 for bigger establishments, he said.
On the first day of level 2 lockdown, Jorberg said business owners reported visits by “threatening” groups of men with bodyguards.
“They came with balaclavas, asking for R20 000,” he said.
Modack said the allegations were false.
“I do not deal with club owners, they are all signed up with TSG. I have more important corporate meetings than to see people for security.”
Modack said the R20 000 protection fee claims were rumours started by rivals who were angry at his expanding business in Cape Town.
“TSG has registered Psira (Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority) personal managers to attend to all of their clubs. Besides the clubs are closed, so who’s going to pay security fees? (These are) fake allegations.”
Earlier this year, Modack and three others faced charges of attempting to extort R90 000 from the Grand Africa Cafe, but were acquitted on all charges.
Mayco member for safety and security JP Smith said he had called a meeting with Safety MEC Albert Fritz to check what progress the SAPS had made with the investigation as the City of Cape Town did not have the power to investigate organised crime.
“We’ve always had a problem with racketeering and organised crime syndicates infiltrating night clubs.
“This problem is getting out of hand,” Smith said.
“The new entrant, Modack, has started going round very aggressively threatening people, going into residential and commercial buildings threatening tenants.
Smith called for the Hawks and the Special Investigating Unit to home in on the groups using intimidation tactics to elicit payments from businesses.
“They’re in the business of intimidation – that’s why they can try to burst into Aurum luxury apartments in Bantry Bay and force their way in at Woodstock Breweries and demand protection money.
“They cannot have free rein of our streets and business community. We can’t stand by and watch these thugs take over our city at a time when we cannot afford another shock to the system.”
Provincial SAPS spokesperson Sergeant Noloyiso Rwexana said she couldn’t comment without specific case numbers.