Shady Mickey Mouse, Union Jack art: State focuses on gang iconography in 'Terrible Josters' trial

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The State alleges that Elton 'Koffie' Lenting was the leader of a faction of the Terrible Josters gang and his second-in-command was Raymond 'Muis' Arendse.
The State alleges that Elton 'Koffie' Lenting was the leader of a faction of the Terrible Josters gang and his second-in-command was Raymond 'Muis' Arendse.
Jenni Evans, News24
  • The State moved on to common themes of hand signals and artwork in photographs retrieved for the Terrible Josters' murder and gangsterism trial. 
  • Hundreds of photos of the lanky men were shown, as the prosecutor pointed out the prevalence of the Union Jack in iconography in memes and posters. 
  • The State has to prove its allegation not just that they committed crimes, but that they did so as a gang with common markers and identifiers.

Union Jacks, a shady Mickey Mouse, and hundreds of photos of men posing with their fingers allegedly flashing gang signs featured in Wednesday's sitting of the 20 men accused of being Terrible Josters gangsters responsible for at least 10 murders in Cape Town. 

Prosecutor Peter John Damon went through a 651-page report on pictures and artwork collected by investigators as he pointed out what he will eventually argue proves they are all part of a gang known as the Terrible Josters. 

READ | 'How many years still?' asks gang-accused as trial marks day 118

Elton "Koffie" Lenting and 19 others have been in custody for around five years as the trial sputters along. They have all pleaded not guilty.

The men do not face just murder and attempted murder charges, they are also charged with criminal gang activity. 

To make this charge stick in court, it is not enough for the State to say they belong to a gang.

It has to link specific crimes to them as a group, and find common identifiers among them, such as similar tattoos, gestures, clothing or insignia, to be able to invoke the Prevention of Organised Crime Act through which gang activity is criminalised.

READ | 'When will this thing end' - gang accused cross about 5 years of 'delayerey'

Recently, former top cop Jeremy Vearey testified as an expert witness on the numbers prison gangs and explained some of the rituals, duties and imaginary symbolism the 26s, 27s and 28s gangs use to set themselves apart from non-gangsters. 

He also explained the gangs tended to align themselves with either the Boer or colonial British armies' symbolism and some of their terminology. 

On Wednesday, Damon focused on external symbolism, body language, and associated identifiers of the Terrible Josters.

The Union Jack featured heavily in the iconography shown to Judge James Lekhueni.

READ | 'But they can't just go!' - Judge puzzled by sudden withdrawal of specialised cops from gang trial

Projected onto two screens in court, Damon routinely pointed out the Union Jack embedded in graphics, photographs, and T-shirts, as well as the red and white colour combinations that some of the men wore.

Damon also pointed out the preference for white spottie hats worn with a red hoodie by some of the men, and the red and black colour combination for clothing.

  • A picture of a bow tie made in the colours of the British flag was also shown to the judge. 
  • Some striking dual colour silhouette artworks showed a red hoodie without a face visible, the number 28, and a hand making what appears to be the 28s symbol on either side as insignia.
  • The hand symbols the men were photographed flashing varied between fingers pointed like a gun or half of a chef's kiss symbol. 
  • Another poster-style art work retrieved from a device, showed a man with what appeared to be a baseball bat and others kicking a man who was down, also referencing the Josters in the symmetrically-placed text.
  • Poster-style creations read: "Hulle Pagamiesa" and "Stiemela Man" overlaid on images of the Union Jack. 

A deeper dive into the symbolism has not been presented yet.

When it came to the group photos of men making hand signs, Damon stopped to identify who was making the hand signal in each picture, and pointed out similarities in the backgrounds of the photographs to establish possible association. 

The men chuckled when they saw pictures of themselves posing in front yards or bedrooms in a half squat, making an alleged gang sign. 

Among the images, there were also sentimental memes about loyalty in love, and betrayal, which Damon skipped.

There was also a picture of Mickey Mouse giving the middle finger, with the caption: "Dis 'n Terrible ding [It's a Terrible thing]", as well as numerous pictures of graffiti of the letters "TJ", with the numbers 2 and 8 next to each letter. 

The men's lawyers listened patiently, with only one interruption to object to Damon identifying one of the cars photographed as an Opel Astra. 

The trial continues on Thursday. 

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