Joe Slovo shop owners complain about extortion

Criminals are allegedly targeting shop owners and the elderly in Joe Slovo.
Criminals are allegedly targeting shop owners and the elderly in Joe Slovo.

Joe Slovo shop owners say a protection racket being run by local gangsters has them fearing for their lives.

Criminals are allegedly targeting shop owners and the elderly in Joe Slovo, and in some cases, anyone with a car.

Similar incidents have been seen across other townships as far as Khayelitsha.

The gangsters offer “protection” to shop owners, landlords and anyone they think has money, for a fee.

Victims must pay up if they don’t won’t something unfortunate to happen to their businesses, their belongings or themselves.

The Weekend Argus reports that the thugs are squeezing crèches, hawkers and landlords in parts of Mfuleni, Kraaifontein, Nyanga and Gugulethu and Joe Slovo Park, Milnerton.

A Joe Slovo community leader, who did not want to be named, said many of the neighbourhood’s spaza shops had been targeted.

“We have heard from a number of shop owners about this trend. A group of gangsters go to them asking for money for protection. What happens in some cases is that these criminals often fight among each other because there is no honour among thieves.

“One will collect R1 000 from a shop owner and not tell his other criminal friends that he collected money and keep it for himself. We fear that now there will be bloodshed in our streets with these criminals killing each other for this money,” said the leader.

Milnerton SAPS spokeswoman, Captain Nopaya Madyibi, said they had not received any complaints at the station about a protection racket.

“However, we urge the community not to participate in the extortion network,” she said.

Provincial SAPS spokeswoman, Brigadier Novela Potelwa, said many of the reports filtering through to them about protection rackets came from third-hand sources.

“A common thread in these incidents is that the primary victims of the extortion phenomenon rarely report cases to police,” she said.

John Mkhonto, a Phoenix resident, said landlords in the neighbourhood were living in fear.

“If you are renting about 10 flats to people in this community, these criminals come to you and ask you questions about how many people are renting there and how much each person pays. The criminals then say that they will take half of the total rent and you keep half. What is this world coming to? The people who work hard have to bend to the will of lazy criminals.”

A Joe Slovo shop owner, who also did not want his name published, said: “These people just look at anyone who they think they can make a quick buck from. They ask us to pay R1 000, and we are scared to go to the police because there’s a lot of rumours that police in some areas might be involved. I was told by a few community members to be careful because people have died over things like this.”

In March, seven people were shot dead in a tavern in Khayelitsha, and there is talk in the community that the killings were linked to gang rivalry over protection fees, but the police say they can’t confirm this.

Joe Slovo residents say they don’t want to be victims but they don’t know where to turn for help.

Milnerton police say the motive behind the killing of five people in Joe Slovo earlier this month, remains unclear, and Joe Slovo residents who spoke to Tabletalk said they also didn’t know whether the killings had anything to do with a protection racket.

Brigadier Potelwa said the public could report extortion to the police’s 24-hour helpline at 021 466 0011.