Extortion related incidents are a major challenge facing the City of Cape Town and hinder infrastructure projects – to deal with this, Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis launched a city-wide anti-extortion campaign in Khayelitsha last Thursday, October 12.
Mr Lewis was accompanied by Mayoral committee member for safety and security, JP Smith; Mayoral committee member for urban mobility, Rob Quintas; and Mayoral committee member for urban waste management, Grant Twigg.
The campaign, under the slogan “Enough is Enough! Genoeg is Genoeg! Kwanele!”, was launched at the site of a project impacted by extortion where the city is currently constructing a new MyCiTi depot.
The City has set up a 24-hour hotline – 0800 00 6992 – through which tip-offs can be done anonymously.
They plan to put up billboards along major routes explaining how residents can help authorities crack down on extortion and earn rewards.
Mr Hill-Lewis said they are seeing a huge spike in extortion attempts in the City of Cape Town, particularly at construction sites such as the one where the campaign launch took place.
The R60 million project has been set back by several weeks after multiple extortion incidents.
The mayor said even basic services had been affected as City employers had been robbed in places like Philippi’s Brown’s farm and Gugulethu by criminals demanding protection fees.
He said they had been agonising for months on how to respond as the City and it is a very difficult problem to solve.
Mr Hill-Lewis said it was not possible to protect all of these sites with armies of security already on main sites such as this one, the Symphony Way site in Delft and in Mitchell’s Plain; they have spent about R55 million on additional security so that construction can continue.
He said even the contractors feel threatened and scared to report extortion crime.
They had sent useful guides on the way which extortion conversations start, usually escalating to threats, said Mr Hill-Lewis.
He said they have also informed contractors that they must report the matters to SAPS and provide a case number.
“Today we are launching a public facing and because the most powerful people that can actually help to put a stop to this are the residents surrounding these construction sites.
‘’Residents can be our eyes and ears and can make sure that where we have intelligence on who these extortionists are they can report it to us anonymously.
‘’We are sending out messages that extortionists attempt to shut down service delivery and steal services and infrastructure from the people who need it the most.
“This year we have got a R11 billion infrastructure budget and this project is just a small part of that budget. We have got more construction sites and construction workers than before.
“About 73% of that budget goes to the poorest communities in the City of Cape Town.
“But sadly some of these construction sites had been halted and a housing project in Symphony Way in Delft where 3000 housing units were going to be built.
“In fact, I got a report that the City had issued a tender application for a road repairing project in Delft but not a single company bid for that project because companies do not want to work in the Delft area due to security concerns,” he said.
Mr Smith said extortionists hide it under a thick layer of community empowerment and what follows is intimidation that forces part of the resources in a project to go towards them.
He said within two weeks they are going to make big arrests but did not want to give too much details.
He applauded the investigative detectives for making great progress but he bemoaned the country’s intelligence for not showing enthusiasm in cracking down extortionists.
He said this is a battle against organised and syndicated crime.
Mr Hill-Lewis said they need an intelligence-driven approach in this matter of which SAPS are custodians.