WATCH | Cele announces crackdown on businesses being 'bullied' by protection rackets in Cape Town

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  • Police Minister Bheki Cele appointed a special steering committee to crack down on protection money rackets in Cape Town.
  • He described the extortionists' demands for protection money from restaurants, clubs and now coffee shops with threats of violence if they do not pay as "organised crime".
  • The announcement comes after the City of Cape Town and provincial government pleaded for help after Long Street's Beerhouse owner spoke out from abroad.

Police Minister Bheki Cele has announced a special steering committee to crack down on renewed reported demands for "protection money" from alleged racketeers who are hitting many clubs, restaurants and bars in Cape Town.

Cele said the demands for protection money were "nothing less than organised crime" and appealed to victims to lay official complaints with the police.

This after a high level meeting was held at the Western Cape's police headquarters between Cele; Hawks head General Godfrey Lebeya; Cele's deputy, Cassel Mathale; national police commissioner General Khehla Sitole; City of Cape Town Community Safety MMC JP Smith and provincial Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz, among others.

This after Randolf Jorberg, the owner of Beerhouse in Cape Town's famous entertainment strip Long Street, left South Africa and spoke out about the alleged demands of up to R20 000 from alleged racketeers since the resumption of the Level 2 lockdown.

'Bullied'

Said Cele on Wednesday: "… Business, particularly restaurants and coffee shops in Cape Town, predominantly in the city, are being bullied into paying what is called protection fees," adding:

Let me say that we view this situation very seriously as this does [not] only constitute a crime, but it also impacts on the grand economic strategy of this country at a time when the nation is working hard to revitalise our economy.

He added Cape Town, like the rest of the country, was under considerable pressure after doors had to close during the Covid-19 lockdown.

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"While we are on the one hand trying to revive the economy, these allegations are emerging that thugs and criminals are exacerbating the situation by demanding protection money from legitimate businesses.

"We certainly cannot allow this to happen on our watch."

Agencies

Cele said all the agencies of the government would work together and if necessary, the SA Revenue Service, Special Investigating Unit and Financial Intelligence Centre would be roped in.

He added the National Prosecuting Authority would also be assisted with strengthening cases as it got cases to court and cold cases would be reopened.

However, Cele said for extortion to end, businesses needed to report it to the police.

So far they had only received one recent official complaint.

He said:

I am calling this a project because there will be an end to this victimisation and extortion of the businesses at the end of the day.

Cele said Cape Town was already among the most violent cities in the world, and responsible for the largest orders of drugs in the country.

He added the Anti-Gang Unit was already active, and the SA National Defence Force was still in place in the province.

Asked whether there would be enough police officers after the province declared a dispute over resourcing, Fritz said their focus now was purely on working together to end the extortion.

Cele and the officials went for a walk up Long Street, causing a commotion with a long convoy of police vehicles, as Smith showed Cele businesses which had been affected.

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