The Rottweiler from Kuilsrivier

2011-03-26 16:20

The club owner sat white-faced and shaking like a leaf, barely able to speak, as he surveyed his wrecked club. Smashed glasses and broken bottles littered the floor and tables and chairs were overturned. It looked as if the place had been struck by a tempest.

Just a short while earlier, the club had been pumping, packed with people enjoying a Saturday night of partying. Then a gang of men wielding batons and clubs suddenly burst in and began laying into the patrons – all because the club owner had declined an “offer” of protection.

This was clubland in Cape Town in the late 1990s, when violent gangsters ran protection rackets and bouncers and drug dealers ruled the roost.

At the crest of this wave of organised violence sat one man: Cyril Beeka.

Beeka was a 6th Dan Goju Kai karate expert from Kuilsrivier, near Cape Town. He trained youngsters in martial arts and bred rottweilers.

He had a violent, hair-trigger temper but could just as easily switch on the charm. He was the son of a Cape Town northern suburbs reformatory principal and one of six children.

The Beeka family lived in a home on the grounds of the institution.

Beeka, who was shot dead on Monday night, started his working life as a strip club bouncer. Within a few years he had carved out a multimillion-rand “security” empire built on the back of a network of terror, violence and wheeling
and dealing.

He counted among his friends a who’s who of South Africa’s rogues and colourful characters – people such as Magoo’s Bar bomber, ANC operative and former Ekurhuleni metro police chief Robert McBride, as well as the current head of South Africa’s intelligence services, Moe Shaik.

Beeka has been linked to alleged mob boss Czech billionaire Radovan Krejcir, now a suspect in Beeka’s murder; and George Smith, a Cypriot being sought in connection with the killing of strip club boss Lolly Jackson.

Other cohorts included alleged Mafia boss Vito Palazzolo and imprisoned Hard Livings gang leader Rashied Staggie, both linked to Beeka in a leaked late-90s top-secret police report compiled by the Presidential Investigative Task Unit.

He was also a one-time business partner of Yuri “the Russian” Ulianitski, who was gunned down with his four-year-old daughter in a drive-by shooting in Cape Town in May 2007.

Beeka operated on many levels. He owned Red Security with his younger brother, Edward, and their staff in their signature quasi-military red uniforms became a common sight all over Cape Town.

His other company, Pro Access Security, operated in the seedy underbelly of the city, supplying protection to the large clientele of clubs, pubs, massage parlours and escort agencies. Beeka formed an alliance early on with the violent Moroccan gangs operating in the city, using them as his enforcers.

But there was another side to Beeka. A master at gathering information, he was an “asset” to both national and military intelligence agencies under the apartheid regime.

He was allowed to operate his various schemes in exchange for favours and the information he picked up in the murky underworld of Cape Town.

He seamlessly carried on as a “resource” for South Africa’s new National Intelligence Agency (NIA) when the ANC came to power in 1994.

A graphic illustration of the protection he enjoyed came at the height of his reign of terror, when Beeka and four men – all linked to Red and Pro Security – were involved in a fight in a bar in which a Chinese seaman was so badly beaten, he died a few days later. Beeka fled.

At the time, a frustrated senior officer in the police’s organised crime unit told me, angrily, they had tracked him down but were unable to arrest him “as he is being hidden away and protected by the intelligence services”.

Beeka later handed himself over to police and during the subsequent trial the court heard sensational evidence about the “Moroccan connection” to Pro Security, and also linked him to an underworld empire of drug dealing, extortion and violence.

In an affidavit to the court, Captain Johan Smit of the SAPS’s organised crime special investigating unit described how Pro Access would send gangs of Moroccans in to cause havoc at a new club, then offer the services of its bouncers to sort out the problem. After a number of delays, Beeka was acquitted.

Never far from controversy, Beeka made headlines once again in 1998 when he was involved in the brutal beating of a woman in a Cape Town brothel.

With him on the night was Robert McBride, who sat quietly in a corner as Beeka and a Russian man punched and kicked the woman.

The woman, 40-year-old mother of two Jennifer Moreira, and Elize Grove-Juries were both placed in the witness protection programme, although Moreira subsequently suffered a breakdown and never testified in court.

Grove-Juries, who was “cut loose” from the programme within two weeks of testifying, was found murdered in her home soon afterwards, although there was never any suggestion at the time that Beeka was involved. The case collapsed and all charges were withdrawn.

About that time, Beeka set up an audacious deal between Red Security and a Joburg-based security company, Ukupha, which had the security contract at the ANC’s Johannesburg headquarters.

The two formed a joint company that tendered for the contract to guard the harbours in Cape Town, Durban, East London and Robben Island.

A senior police officer, concerned at the prospect of “someone like Cyril Beeka being in charge of port security”, tipped me off about the plan and Ukupha withdrew from the arrangement within days of a story being published.

In the end, as police slowly began taking the streets of Cape Town back from the gangs, things got “too hot” for Beeka and he moved to Johannesburg, although he was a frequent visitor to the Mother City, where he still had business interests and investments in property.

At the time of his death, Beeka was the head of security for RAM Hand-To-Hand Couriers, which, among other things, services the diamond and jewellery industry and delivers credit cards for major banks.

Last year I had coffee with Beeka in Cape Town and he insisted that he was a “respectable businessman” involved in the courier industry. He had put on a fair bit of weight, and he appeared relaxed and calm. He openly boasted of his relationship with the intelligence services.

A few weeks ago, Beeka, who would have turned 50 next month, threw an early birthday party at the trendy Fashion TV cafe bar in Cape Town.

“It was a great party. There were loads of models and naked sushi,” said one man who attended. He insisted, however, that Beeka was a changed man.

“Cyril was old school, an absolute gentleman and a staunch friend who you could rely on when you needed help. He was charming and treated the ladies well, and was never rude to the girls.”

Changed or not, Beeka died on Monday night as violently as he had once lived – in a hail of bullets from an assassin’s gun.

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