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How Traitor Cops Crafted South Africa’s Underworld

Updated: Nov 4, 2021

Author Caryn Dolley’s latest book To The Wolves is an intensely gripping narrative unmasking deep-rooted corruption stemming from the apartheid era to present day. She answers our top five questions.

The earlier chapters of your book look at the architects of anarchy – corrupt politicians and law enforcement who conspire with and help give rise to the underbelly of society. Fast forward to present times and the unrest gripping KZN and Gauteng, with rumours of this mayhem being orchestrated. Would you say our people are easily manipulated?

Perhaps the question should be flipped – what makes those with political (or other forms of perceived) power callous enough to try and manipulate citizens? And what makes them feel immune to accountability?

Under apartheid, one of the main driving forces was to maintain the segregated status quo and under that regime there was no accountability for this. More recently, in terms of the looting and unrest, it appears that numbers were key – the more people who joined in, the bigger a problem it posed.

The intentions underlying the looting and unrest should be focused on. Aside from those who crafted and implemented a clear plan, there were also those who were driven by desperation. People are desperate to eat, to access basic goods, and to eke out a living while the corrupt knowingly exploit this. It must also be highlighted that many people are not easy to manipulate.

We have seen this in clean-up operations carried out by citizens after the intense looting. In terms of gangsterism, while there are those who turn to it, there are also many residents who are actively against these crimes, as well as the entwined corruption. There are also police officers who try and expose crimes within their ranks and are targeted for it. This, infuriatingly, has been the case from apartheid through to now.

Unless you were raised on the Cape Flats or live still in the area, it is hard to fathom just how hardcore gangsterism is. What were your thoughts as the layers unfolded taking you deeper and deeper into this world? Especially since the Cape Town surrounding the Cape Flats boasts elite property markets and a booming tourism market – a façade to hide its ills from the rest of the world.

Gangsterism was previously seen to be more confined to specific areas, but it is no longer the case. Shootings, especially in Cape Town, show that there are no boundaries to gang-related crimes. Violence has played out in upmarket neighbourhoods, those historically linked to gangsterism, in restaurants, and even the main airport.

What is striking is how gangsterism and organised crime has saturated so many sectors, from claims of suspected gangsters involved in private security companies to the property market and police.

What is horrifically striking is how a child being shot, becoming collateral in gang violence, is not uncommon and how certain police officers consistently claim corrupt cops are channelling firearms to gangsters, effectively arming assassins.

3. In many countries, arms dealers, drug kingpins, the mafia and gangsters are often referred to as a necessary evil. Do you think the same holds truth for South Africa and why?

I think the so-called “necessary evil” in South Africa would be the acts of figures who do what may be perceived as bad to achieve something fundamentally good.

I came across a saying that made my top-favourites’ list: “Believing that a politician cares about you is like believing the stripper is in love with you”. We are naïve to think that corruption does not exist to some degree regardless of who is running the show.

But when you look at incidents that gangsters from the Cape Flats were linked to, which stretched as far afield as the UK, the US, China and even Ireland, it begs the question: is this purely all in the name of power? Or am I missing a bigger piece of the puzzle?

Gangsterism is not a linear problem involving local individuals working with international figures and in a Western Cape context, gangsters are not exclusively from the Cape Flats. Gangsterism is a thin strand in an expansive web of organised crime that is undoubtedly strengthened by the corruption (from politicians to police officers).

The idea that it is linked to the simple meaning of “power” needs to expand in this context. Global organised crime involves masses of money, lucrative illicit trades, human, weapon and drug smuggling, and legitimate businesses that launder cash. These groupings are effectively pseudo-governments with links to official governments.

I could name several, but as the author, if there is one reason the public should read your book, what would it be?

This is fatal State capture – the intentional compromising of police and intelligence services in South Africa gouges into our security, puts the safety of children at risk, and we need to understand this right now to urgently tackle it.

Extract from the book:

“From late 2020 into early 2021, as new outbreaks of cop skirmishes spread, a series of arrests was carried out across Cape Town, putting South Africa’s underworld back under a magnifying glass. These arrests again linked to alleged crimes crawling out of the nightclub security and drug arena, the areas that had for decades dominated the city’s criminal underbelly.

In the first spate of arrests, Mark Lifman, Jerome ‘Donkie’ Booysen and William ‘Red’ Stevens, a man widely suspected of being one of the most seasoned 27s gangsters in the Western Cape, were detained in connection with an astonishing incident that had links to several countries including the UK, the US, China and Ireland, again emphasising what a key cog South Africa and its Mother City were in global organised crime.”

To The Wolves is available from Takealot and most online bookstores or order your copy here.

Author: Candice Landie

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