Bheki Cele wants to net the 'big fish' extortionists in Western Cape
Police minister Bheki Cele warned extortion syndicates that "the big fish" were in his crosshairs during a briefing in Cape Town on Thursday.
Cele was giving an update on the work done by the Western Cape extortion steering committee.
He said since January 2020, 105 extortion cases had been opened and 67 cases were still under investigation. A total of 106 people linked to extortion cases had been arrested and charged, while seven individuals were out on bail.
The committee is made up of national and provincial government representatives, the police, the City of Cape Town and businesses. It was established in September 2020 as a response to concerns raised by private individuals and businesses about being coerced into paying so-called "protection fees".
“The extortion looked like it was an elite crime problem as mainly nightclubs and bars were being targeted, but actually the extortionists were also going to townships like Khayelitsha to get percentages of rentals from the poorest of the poor,” said Cele.
“During lockdown the nightclubs were shut down, so the extortionists were going for eateries, restaurants and anyone they could intimate to get money from.
“But I’m very impressed in the way the committee worked together for the better of the province. I believe we will squash out extortionists with our unity.”
Asked if he believed the police were arresting the brains behind the rackets, he said: “We have arrested the foot soldiers but we are getting into the big fish now.”
Cele said cases were now intelligence-driven, which yielded better results.
On Wednesday a parade was held which saw Cele unveil 200 new police members for the province. The group included analysts and specialists who would join the fight against extortionists.
“If we are seen to be successful in arresting more extortionists, more people will come forward to report intimidation and extortion," said Cele.
The minister added that some police officers working with extortionists and gangsters had been arrested.
“We are urging all those who are forced by people to pay protection money to contact the police on 021-466-0011.”