Cape protection rackets accused of casting net wider after lockdown kills nightlife
Until the lockdown, the underworld bosses behind Cape Town's protection rackets concentrated mainly on nightclubs.
But when nightlife shut down and revenue dried up, they allegedly began expanding their intimidation tactics to coffee shops, restaurants, hotels and property owners.
Nightclub owners reluctantly paid their monthly “security tax” but business owners in other sectors are furious about being dragged into the clutches of some of Cape Town’s most feared men.
Randolf Jorberg, owner of Long Street nightclub Beerhouse, said he received death threats in August after using his Facebook page to condemn the intimidation of business owners.
He claimed several business people had complained about being approached by armed thugs affiliating themselves to alleged underworld boss Nafiz Modack.
They complained on the Hospitality Alliance Leadership WhatsApp support group created by Jorberg shortly after the Covid-19 lockdown took effect in March.
“I initiated this group, because as the owner of Beerhouse I know with painful certainty (having lost my doorman Joe to murder in 2015) that a single business can't stand against the racketeers,” Jorberg said on his Facebook page.
“Many businesses that never had to pay for protection have been approached by Modack's gang to start paying him ... up to R20k a month. As clubs are out of business they seem to try to make up for lost turnover and conquer a new industry.”
In 2015, Jorberg refused to pay protection money, a decision he believes led to the stabbing of doorman Joe Kanyona.
Beerhouse has a security contract with murdered Satudara biker gang leader Tim Lotter’s company, Extreme Measures Security, and Jorberg said it was the only service he ever felt wasn’t linked to force or intimidation.
Kanyona was murdered at the height of tensions between rival underworld groupings who were fighting over lucrative nightclub protection rackets.
“It's not that this 'management fee' gets you any service,” said Jorberg, adding that nightclub owners still paid their own bouncers.
“The only threat they 'protect' you from is themselves. You pay for them to not come into your venue. In seven years at Beerhouse I only had two groups my own doormen couldn't deal with: the two factions. [Mark] Lifman and Modack.”
Jorberg left for his native Germany with his family after his SA business interests, including Beerhouse, were flattened by the lockdown, and he told TimesLIVE that for the first time since Kanyona’s death he felt secure enough to talk openly about extortion in Cape Town.
Modack denied the allegations, claiming Jorberg was using his name as an excuse not to pay debtors and staff.
TimesLIVE has spoken to several sources at businesses targeted by groups of men who have made monetary demands or demands to conduct business over the course of the lockdown.
In one case a Sea Point business owner claimed he was visited by men who told him to “Google Nafiz Modack”. In another, a business was approached by armed men and was told to make a payment but the source could not say whether Modack’s name was mentioned.
Modack told TimesLIVE that one of his rivals, bouncer boss André Naudé, was attempting to frame him and portray him in a bad light.
He asked why he would attempt to extort businesses which already have security contracts with TSG, the security group for which he acts as a “mediator”.
“That’s other groups trying to come in, man. They’re using my name. How would I go and ask the same people who are signed up with TSG to sign a contract?” said Modack.
“That doesn’t make sense, there’s more behind the thing. This owner, he started the thing. If you look at the message he sent out on that racketeering group in Western Cape, where does he as a foreigner get (provincial head of detectives Jeremy) Vearey’s number, the mayor’s number, everyone’s number? There’s people behind him feeding him this kak.”
TimesLIVE spoke to the owner of a prominent Clifton apartment block who claimed he fled the country after a visit by Modack and his entourage.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said that shortly after the start of the lockdown he was called by a staff member who said “gangsters” wanted to see him.
He was confronted by about a dozen armed men and when he realised what was going on he immediately asked them to leave.
“When they came to our building, I explained to them, I told them to get out. I told them, leave. Then he told me very clearly, I am this and I am that. I told him, 'listen, I don’t give a rat’s arse who you are, you do not come to my home and try to enter,'” he said.
“I explained to them that I do not own the building. I’m a developer, I get finance from Investec, I have a loan with Investec, there’s a bond with Investec, which means unless I pay the bond, I cannot have a release on my asset. I explained to them nicely in the beginning,” he said.
He said the men came back week after week making the same demands.
“When he [Modack] came, he said, 'I want to discuss business with you.' I said, 'I don’t want to discuss business with you because I know who you are.' I’m a businessman and I have businesses internationally, I know how these things work. They’ve approached all the buildings around Bantry Bay.”
The businessman said his company’s board of directors had declined funding for new developments in SA as a result of the threats.
After Jorberg’s allegations, Modack said he arranged a meeting with Beerhouse managers and offered them financial assistance as he claimed they were not being paid by Jorberg.
“In the meeting, [one manager] said, 'boss, I don’t want problems with you, you never sent people to our club, we are not paying you protection so I don’t know why my boss is doing this',” said Modack.
“There is nobody who I sent, I didn’t send anybody because TSG already have signed them. Everyone has signed up.
“Obviously it’s André and them, they’re still trying to get clubs who are refusing them. So what’s the next thing? Trying to bad-mouth me. They can bad-mouth me all they want. I have nothing to do with security, I do not sign up anyone, if they have proof they can call me and I will resolve all their problems for them.”
Modack claimed the allegations were part of an attempt by Naudé and alleged underworld figure Lifman to claw back territory lost to Modack over the past few years.
He said the security contracts were not making money since the nightclubs closed for business and that there was no longer any incentive to contest nightclub security contracts.
This week Jorberg received threatening messages from people who claimed to represent Naudé. But the bouncer boss said the messages were not from him.
“I never sent him any messages, I have no interest therein, my heart bleeds for these people over and over and over,” said Naudé, claiming Modack was attempting to divert the attention he had been receiving due to Jorberg's allegations.
“He said it’s me? That we’re looking for money from restaurant owners? Forget it. He’s diverting. The real police, not the corrupt police, the real police must just do their f****** job, that’s all,” said Naudé.
Naudé said that the security groups he worked with gave business owners payment holidays.
“Let me put it this way, the guys who take our security in Long Street have been with us for years, they’re not paying a cent more than they have to. When the Covid started we stopped charging them, you can check, I can give you our book-keeper’s details. We do everything by the book,” said Naudé.
“The bookkeeper will show we put everyone on payment holiday, we don’t demand anything from anyone. I dare you to find one person who’ll tell you we made them pay. We told everyone don’t worry about it, it’s fine.”
Naudé claimed that for 30 years he had rendered a valuable service to nightclub owners and that profits had always been slim.
“It was never meant to be a profitable business. It was to cover overheads and to make sure that people behave themselves in the clubs and to make sure that everyone respects each other,” he said.
“And I’ve been running it like that for 30 years and if I could do it all again I’d run it the same way, with respect, and that’s it, not by forcing someone to pay something. I’ve never done that in my life. That’s stealing, I don’t steal.
“I dare you to find a single person who’ll tell you that André demanded money. I totally understand the plight of the people, let’s put it that way.”
Lifman also denied Jorberg’s claims that he was involved in extortion.
“I’d like anyone to come forward who says that I’ve ever tried to extort them. I mean, I’m a businessman who’s managed to make a living out of doing a business and people want to do business with me and I do business in good faith. I don’t think that guy knows me or has ever done any business with me,” he said.
“I find it very strange that he’s actually mentioned my name because I’ve never been charged with any form of extortion. It’s not my style actually. I’m quite surprised that that’s even being mentioned.
“The mention of my name and André’s name by that German guy was a little bit out of place, and I think that he’s just trying to clasp at straws in the whole process, but I think that wherever his real threat is coming from, it’s coming from the people who are going around in a group of vehicles armed with balaclavas. That’s a fact, there’s video footage of it.”
Jorberg claimed to have made a statement to the Hawks in 2017 and said he had been willing to become a state witness against the extortion racketeers. But he retracted the statement when his mother was intimidated.
Asked why he had had another change of heart, he said: “My ‘why’ is essentially the death of Joe. Someone did the unthinkable to me in that way, and I take it very personally that that happened.
“Since then I’ve been looking for a time to stand up and do my part in driving these gangsters out of town. The reality is, I was never able to do that without endangering my own life, the life of my daughter, because I was always in town.”
Jorberg said his business interests in SA are in shambles and he acknowledged that his managers and staff seemed to have taken up an offer of financial assistance from Modack.
“All contracts came to a grinding halt during lockdown and that includes the informal payments. My understanding is that Modack is desperate to make up for the lost turnover and that’s the reason he now goes into these new industries,” he said.
“SA is at a very critical point in time. If we now give in and no-one stands up, and all these new industries agree to pay this additional tax, it basically goes on top of all the other informal taxes we pay because we are a developing country.
“We need to pay for a generator because Eskom is failing, now we need to pay for security because SAPS is failing, we need to pay for Covid because the government is not supporting us.”