The Western Cape is working with the police and other law enforcement agencies to address the issue of extortion involving gangs.
The Department of Community Safety attended the first meeting of the Priority Committee on Organised Crime and Extortion, which was established by the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele.
According to Premier Alan Winde, this is a positive step towards addressing extortion, where businesses and individuals in communities across the Cape metro region are forced to cough up a portion of their earnings in exchange for “protection”.
The South African Police Service (SAPS) has since allocated resources to investigate ongoing complaints of extortion in areas including Khayelitsha and Gugulethu, which may be linked to deadly mass shootings.
SAPS has also established a multi-sectoral committee to focus on these issues, led by Major General Andre Lincoln.
Sixteen police officers have been appointed to investigate organised crime.
Additionally, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) will consolidate cases for future prosecution.
The MEC of Community Safety, Albert Fritz, welcomed the outcomes of the first committee meeting on extortion, convened by Cele’s office.
“Reports have shown that gangs are targeting our community members, local businesses, early childhood development centres, and even government officials.
“It is for this reason that I called on Minister Cele to urgently convene this committee and ensure it meets. Convening this meeting is a step in the right direction,” Fritz said.
The provincial government said it is committed to making the province safer by building relationships across government departments, civil society and police.
The Department of Community Safety stressed that it is working with neighbourhood watches and Community Policing Forums.
The former Western Cape Police Ombudsman, Johan Brand, has been appointed to manage the implementation of the safety plan, through a partnership with the Economic Development Partnership (EDP).
The EDP acts as a neutral intermediary, creating a bridge between the provincial government and other organisations, to ensure the buy-in and effective implementation of the safety plan.
“The City of Cape Town is a key partner in our commitment to putting additional boots on the ground, through the LEAP programme,” the Premier said.
The Law Enforcement Advancement Plan (LEAP) officers have been redeployed, through the Western Cape Safety Plan, to assist in Hanover Park, Nyanga, Khayelitsha, Bishop Lavis and Delft.
Eighty officers were deployed in Hanover Park in October, where they have already made 33 arrests.
The majority of these are for the possession of dangerous weapons, ammunition and drugs.
“They have also made one arrest on a charge of rape and another on a charge of domestic violence, helping to combat the scourge of gender-based violence in communities,” said Winde.
The Premier said making the Western Cape safer is one of three focus areas of the provincial government’s recovery plan. He welcomed efforts by all stakeholders to ensure that this is achieved.
Anyone with information on extortion in the province, or who has been approached to pay protection fees, can anonymously report this to the police on the SAPS extortion hotline number 021 466 0011.