A new “mafia” has moved in to take control of the lucrative protection business in Cape Town’s clubland in the wake of the assassination of crime boss Cyril Beeka.
Controlled by Beeka’s one-time rival in the club security business, Andre Naude, and Sea Point businessman Mark Lifman, new security outfit Strategic Protection Services (SPS) also has links to Jerome “Donkie” Booysen – believed to be the leader of Belhar’s notorious Sexy Boys gang.
Booysen is the last person Beeka visited before being killed in a drive-by highway shooting in March last year. He was also named in court last week by Captain Paul Hendrikse, investigating officer in the Beeka murder, as a suspect in the killing.
Booysen fought back last week, threatening to sue the state as well as assorted media outlets.
Formerly “protected” by the Beeka-linked Pro Security, Cape Town nightclubs, bars and even restaurants have been targeted as the new outfit has sought to pick up where the old guard left off.
SPS’s methods, as described in a series of confidential Weekend Argus interviews, have allegedly been intimidatory – sometimes brutal – and chillingly reminiscent of the underworld tactics used by Beeka in late 1990s bouncer wars to seize control of the nightspots.
In those days managements reluctant to buy into the Pro Security service were routinely visited by a gang of Moroccans linked to Beeka, who would proceed to trash the venue, beating and intimidating patrons with seeming immunity from police intervention.
At least two members of the Moroccans gang of the 1990s – kickboxer Hussein Ait Talib and his sidekick Hamid Zouty – have come to light in the current marketing campaign as affiliates of SPS.
Weekend Argus has learnt that only days after Beeka’s murder, bouncer frontman Jacques Cronje formally threw in his lot with Naude and Lifman, dissolving Pro into the new bouncer operation. Subsequently, however, it has emerged he was edged out – according to several sources, though this could not be confirmed – for rampant substance abuse.
At the same time as he entered the bouncer business, Lifman’s empire – built partly on property holdings in partnership with Booysen – has expanded. He has acquired several clubs of his own in the City Bowl including, reportedly, 169 on Long, a club called the Loop on Loop Street, as well as the Spacebar. He also owns at least one nightspot in Bellville.
Last week managements contacted by Weekend Argus about their bouncer contracts were reluctant to be identified for fear of retribution – and because they have little faith in the police.
SPS now controls security at nearly 200 Cape Town nightspots, predominantly in the city centre, the Atlantic seaboard and the southern and northern suburbs. This was confirmed on Saturday night in an interview with Naude, who also confirmed he teamed up with Cronje, Beeka’s former partner, to form SPS about a month after Beeka’s murder.
Protection fees quoted by managements contacted by Weekend Argus varied from R250 a week to a whopping R25 000 a month, representing a fee hike of between 400 and 600 percent from the old regime.
While some managements interviewed said street security had indeed become far tighter since the SPS operation took over, they also noted they were not given a choice.
One Long Street club owner described their approach as the “classic protection racket scenario, straight out of film noir”.
“The heavies come in. They tell you about their service, and they tell you how it is going to work and how much it is going to cost. We are a small operation, and we employ our own doormen. We used to pay R250 per month to Pro Security – just to keep them off our back. But now the same service would cost R500 per week. On top of that they were insisting on inserting two or three of their people inside the club for security.”
Knowing that in the past such “on-the-floor security” had been used routinely as a cover for drug-dealers, the club’s management indicated the proposal was unacceptable. This was in spite of being confronted by the intimidating presence of Naude himself in the company of one of the Moroccans.
“They then got seriously aggressive, smashed glasses against the music system and stalked off, saying they’d be back. We now pay R250 a week, but we did manage to keep the on-floor security out… and the place doesn’t get trashed.”
When the Dubliner bar in Long Street declined, around June last year, to buy into the bouncer service, a group of thugs trashed the venue.
“Cyril Beeka’s death has left a void,” one source said, “and this is now being filled by SPS. “They are now the new mafia – Lifman and the Sexy Boys – and all the clubs are signed up with them.”
Weekend Argus was unable to find any relevant registration for either Strategic Protection Services (SPS), or Altius Trading 470 on the website of the Private Security Regulatory Authority (PSIRA).
Direct queries to PSIRA remained unanswered.
Contacted for comment on Saturday, Lifman said only: “Pass me by, goodbye,” before ending the call.
Naude however, on Saturday night painted a picture of a clean-cut and highly professional security service.
He said he was shocked to hear that entertainment venues were saying they were forced to join SPS, because they had joined willingly, and welcomed SPS’s services.
“There’s no racketeering. There’s no extortion. And I have never profited from drug-dealing.”
Naude could not think of a single venue, except Maestro’s restaurant in Milnerton, which did not hire his company.
He also acknowledged that Ait Talib was now working for SPS. “He was very violent in the past, but he has changed,
The Fez, a club attached to Vaudeville in Mechau Street off the bottom end of Bree Street, was swarming with SPS security officers on Friday night – dressed in their trademark black outfits with yellow ties or yellow emblems on their shirts.
“They’re operating very much like Cyril (Beeka) operated,” a source in the club’s employ said.
“They’re very heavy-handed. They came in to say they want to be the security and threatened to burn the place down if management didn’t agree. They said they would cause big trouble. So The Fez was under threat and had to sign up.”
Though this could not be confirmed, two independent sources told Weekend Argus the club was paying as much as R25 000 a month for security services.