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ROAD TO 2021 LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS

Connecting the many dots between politics, spooks, cops and criminals

Behind the posters of smiling candidates is a tangled web of politics and policing that includes some of South Africa’s most notorious criminal suspects. In the Western Cape, things are particularly complicated.

A motley mix of politicians are vying for votes as South Africa heads towards local government elections on 1 November and some, despite being rivals, are connected in unusual ways – including by intriguing claims that involve suspected criminals and police officers.

It is well known that, under apartheid, politicians and police officers partnered with gangsters to target or gather information about perceived adversaries. In turn, their anti-apartheid adversaries undoubtedly also used gangsters to keep tabs on them.

This blurred the lines between the state, political operatives and criminals.

The Western Cape, South Africa’s gangsterism capital, has been central to this. Over the years, several sagas involving questionable ties, some extending beyond the province, have emerged.

Let us not forget German fraudster Jurgen Harksen, who was based in South Africa and, in 2002, claimed to have donated about R750,000 to the Democratic Alliance (DA).

“Harksen testified that he was subsequently advised that the DA was looking for an amount of R4-million per year up to the year 2004 to finance campaigns,” said a report based on the Desai Commission that looked into several issues, including Harksen. “He was requested to help the DA by introducing friends of his, in particular businessmen who were keen to support the DA.”

Harksen was extradited to Germany and the DA responded by saying the commission was being used as a political weapon by parties, including the ANC. But the saga saw Gerald Morkel, a former Cape Town mayor, resigning as a provincial DA leader.

In recent years, fired top policeman Jeremy Vearey once accused the DA’s outgoing Cape Town mayor Dan Plato of working with an array of dubious informants, some with links to gangs, to tarnish his name.

Plato, who was previously Western Cape community safety head, denied it.

Another example of questionable associations involves the EFF’s Julius Malema and Adriano Mazzotti, a director of controversial cigarette company Carnilinx. And the ANC is a hotbed of allegations involving unscrupulous politicians and dubious characters.

Cover-up claims

The name Lennit Max, a former Western Cape police commissioner and recently a special adviser to Police Minister Bheki Cele, has popped up time and time again.

Post-police commissioner days, he has been a prolific party-hopper, joining the Independent Democrats (ID), the DA, the ANC and now Freedom Front Plus. He was recently announced as the FF+’s mayoral candidate in Cape Town.

Max joins other mayoral contenders including Geordin Hill-Lewis of the DA and the Good party’s Brett Herron, but what sets Max apart is his textured history involving policing and politics.

Max was Western Cape police commissioner between 1999 and 2003. It was during this time that Vearey, a Western Cape police officer who was controversially fired from the police service in May this year, was head of an anti-gang project known as Slasher. His time as head of Slasher did not go smoothly and, in 2002, Vearey was moved away from those duties.

Vearey claimed he had been sidelined in a move to cover up either police corruption or negligence relating to gang crimes. (This would not be the last time Vearey made claims in this vein.)

“[Vearey] accuses the Provincial Commissioner of making common cause with those seeking to cover up evidence and to treat him unlawfully,” said Cape Town Labour Court papers from 2002. “It is in the public interest he says that he continues to carry out his duties.”

The provincial commissioner Vearey was referring to at that time was Max.

The Slasher saga, which involved about 1,500 dockets that would apparently prove police wrongdoing but which went missing, ended with Vearey being found guilty of insubordination in early 2003.

A news report at the time quoted Max as saying, during a hearing into Vearey’s conduct, that Vearey could not accept authority or be trusted and, if he was not dismissed, “we will be back here again within six months, with Vearey again in the dock”.

Max’s words were prophetic, even though his timing was off by several years. This year, Vearey did indeed find himself at the centre of a misconduct saga that culminated in his dismissal.

Vearey has subsequently challenged this dismissal.

Mr Big and Aunty Pat

In early 2005, Patricia de Lille, who was then head of the Independent Democrats (ID) and who now heads the Good party, conceded that Quinton “Mr Big” Marinus, once accused of an array of crimes, had provided transport to ID supporters during the previous year’s elections.

“At the time, I did not know who he was. Had I known, I would have declined his offer,” she was quoted as saying at the time.

There were also allegations that Marinus had donated R300,000 to the party.

De Lille said she had been told about Marinus’s transport offer by local music producer Al Etto (who happened to be associated with former 28s gang boss Ernest Solomon, better known as Ernie Lastig, who was assassinated in 2020).

She said she had referred Marinus to Max, then a member of the ID.

“As a former police commissioner in the Western Cape, I would have thought Mr Max should surely have known who Mr Marinus was. As a loyal and disciplined member of the ID, [as] he claims to be, I would have expected him to have warned the party of Mr Marinus’s alleged criminal links,” De Lille said in a January 2005 statement.

For his part, Marinus claimed he had been targeted because of his connections to the taxi industry and that, before he offered taxi services to the ID, he had offered the same services to the ANC.

Max left the ID around 2005 while reportedly fighting expulsion from the party.

This was not an obstacle in his political path – he simply floor-crossed to the DA. He was still a member of the party when, in 2018, he announced his appointment as a special adviser to Police Minister Bheki Cele, an ANC minister.

When Max left the DA for its opposition in December 2018, he said: “It is clear that the people of the Western Cape are good enough only to serve as voting fodder for the DA, but not deserving of a safe environment to live in. As a result I am resigning as a member of the DA with immediate effect. I’m taking out membership of the ANC… It is my view that the ANC under the leadership of President Ramaphosa is the only party that can turn around the situation in South Africa.”

It appears Max’s view has once again changed, with him emerging as the FF+’s mayoral candidate in Cape Town.

The ex-spy and the police

A critical early node in this policing-politics network involves Cyril Beeka, a nightclub security kingpin and rumoured rogue intelligence agent who was murdered in 2011, and Hard Livings gang boss Rashied Staggie, who was assassinated in 2019.

They were suspected of working together in the early 1990s, as well as with Vito Palazzolo, at the time suspected of being a member of the Italian mafia and under investigation for links to crooked politicians and cops. (Palazzolo was never convicted of crime in SA.)

Staggie and Beeka were also suspected of working for apartheid operatives, with Beeka later switching over and supporting the ANC (and what manifested as a faction of the party aligned to Jacob Zuma in later years).

Beeka was also suspected of working with corrupt police officers, and Staggie was once filmed admitting to doing so.

And from here more links, claimed or otherwise, branch out.

Daily Maverick recently reported that Staggie was released on day parole in September 2013 after being imprisoned for several years for various crimes. He then became a member of the Patriotic Alliance (PA), headed by former convicts-turned-businessmen Gayton McKenzie and Kenny Kunene.

This union did not last long – Staggie’s day parole was temporarily revoked and, when he was released again in 2014, his PA partnership was a thing of the past.

Meanwhile, claims emerging via the DA also once linked Beeka to controversial African Muslim Party politician Badih Chaaban, who died in 2017.

Among those who used to operate in the same circles as Staggie, Beeka and company was Neil de Beer, who now heads the United Independent Movement (UIM). De Beer was initially involved in apartheid’s security police, but switched in 1988 to become an undercover intelligence operative for the ANC’s military wing uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK).

His MK commanders included Vearey and Andre Lincoln, a policeman who recently headed the province’s Anti-Gang Unit and who, in the 1990s, led high-level investigations into underworld suspects.

As an undercover operative, De Beer ran a security outfit that was a police front. He operated in the same circles as prominent Cape Town underworld figures, including Beeka.

Fast-forward to October 2020, when De Beer announced his resignation from the ANC. He is now in the running for Cape Town mayor under the UIM umbrella.

This means a one-time apartheid-era cop who effectively turned on the regime is now up against a former Western Cape police commander for the city’s mayor position.

De Beer also has much grander ambitions. Late last year, as leader of the freshly launched UIM, he told Daily Maverick that he was intent on becoming president of South Africa.

Notorious Czech criminal Radovan Krejcir claimed, in a July 2018 affidavit, to have known both Jacob Zuma and his son Duduzane, who, like De Beer, seems to have presidential ambitions.

Daily Maverick recently reported that Krejcir claimed Beeka introduced him to Duduzane and that, in exchange for R5-million, the then president’s son was meant to sort out asylum papers for Krejcir.

Krejcir said he paid over half of this but that his relationship with Duduzane dwindled after Beeka’s murder in March 2011.

Just two months after Beeka’s assassination, Zuma allegedly met top gangsters as part of a plan to wrest control of the Western Cape from the DA to the ANC. The ANC in the Western Cape labelled this fake news, despite claims in cop circles to the contrary.

Daily Maverick recently reported that Duduzane Zuma was photographed, apparently in October 2017, with Nafiz Modack, who has subsequently been accused of several crimes. Modack has acknowledged knowing Duduzane and once wore an ANC shirt while in the dock of a criminal court.

And this is where the loop closes, and things again link up to Beeka and the messy suspicions of crooked cops and dirty politics.

Modack knew Beeka and was suspected of getting involved in his nightclub security operations a few years after his murder.

Like Beeka once was, Modack now stands accused of several crimes, including the murder of Western Cape detective Lieutenant-Colonel Charl Kinnear, who was assassinated outside his home in September 2020.

Among the police officers who investigated Modack were Vearey and Lincoln, who believe cops have targeted them for reasons including investigations they have conducted that led back to the state. They also once handled De Beer, the UIM’s mayoral candidate, now up against former Western Cape cop commissioner Lennit Max. DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for R25 at Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. For your nearest stockist, please click here.

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  • The only conclusion to be reached after reading this article is “ never trust a politician!” They are only there to use a position to enrich themselves, not to represent the community they have promised to serve. This would be fine if we were living in an age of Morals and Ethics, but those days are long gone!

  • A great breakdown of how politics and crime is connected in South Africa.The same chameleons pop up.Thoreau s words ring true “the more things change the more they stay the same.Society seems incapable of changing this farce ,where sinister behind the scene powers, pull the strings.”Oh for a honest leader of south african citizens who put them first”He will just be sidelined ,for the name of the game is money, power and image,sad but true.