BOOK REVIEW: An unnerving peek inside Cape Town’s deadly underworld
Caryn Dolley’s book The Enforcers is simultaneously captivating, entertaining and disillusioning
Going out for a meal, a few drinks, or a bit of dancing? Best not look too closely at the burly men guarding the door.
Caryn Dolley, however, has made a career out of doing just that. As a newspaper reporter and now at investigative journalism unit amaBhungane, she specialises in stories from the streets. The Enforcers delves into organised crime from multiple perspectives, spotlighting the collaborative network between the underworld and security establishments — the state’s as well as that of private companies.
Tentacles creep far up the power ladder. The ANC, at the dawn of democracy, was supposed to sweep clean, but has, instead, joined the bandwagon.
“Certain elements of corruption segued seamlessly from one government to the next and were still at play decades into democracy.”
As a Capetonian, for me the book makes fascinating and jarring spatial connections: to places 100m from where I worked for a decade; to an international mafioso’s house past which I occasionally jog; awakening memories of nightclubs from my youth where more was happening than I ever imagined.
And, still happens.
Possibly the most atrocious reality Dolley highlights is that state capture exists in the very fabric of central Cape Town’s configurations. And the capture occurred a long time ago, in apartheid days.
So it’s no coincidence — but a paradox I have long wondered about — that the city’s central police station is situated right next to Maverick’s strip club; a block or two away is the Western Cape High Court and dozens of law offices, in turn on the doorstep of the vibrant nightlife area along Long Street. This is all presided over by the proximity of parliament: on more than one occasion I’ve imagined seeing a cabinet member in earnest conversation at a well-guarded Long Street bar. The Enforcers jolts realisation that this wasn’t an illusion.
The book’s premise is substantiated with convincing anecdotes involving names going high up: spymaster Jacob Zuma and ally Mo Shaik being escorted by crime boss Cyril Beeka at the ANC’s Polokwane conference in 2007; a decade later, Gauteng head of the Hawks Prince Mokotedi and Duduzane Zuma are photographed meeting at swanky venues with Beeka’s protégé, notorious gangster Nafiz Modack.
Dolley makes the imagination roam when she describes the scene and celebrities at Beeka’s funeral: the coffin is draped in an ANC flag, there are Umkhonto we Sizwe veterans, Hells Angels leaders and Springboks James Dalton and Percy Montgomery.
East European connections also permeate. Radovan Krejcir is well known, but Dolley unmasks other unsavoury characters from countries such as Serbia, Croatia and Cyprus. These are men with limited virtue, but steel in their vertebrae: international assassins flown in by Krejcir for special jobs — some with long-term connections to SA’s security establishment — or specialists in myriad derivatives of organised crime.
Dolley cultivates this intrigue, and the book flows in a fast-paced amalgam of hits and hitmen, gangsters and syndicates, policemen and politicians — connected or greased together with money, drugs, influence and power.
The connections are so obscure, it’s impossible at times to link everything clearly. Tug at one thread and you end up tugging another five, because they are interconnected.Caryn Dolley
The Enforcers is simultaneously captivating, entertaining, and disillusioning. It’s also frustrating, as dots aren’t definitively connected. The result is an extrapolating web, sticky enough to enthral but too ephemeral to draw conclusions.
Perhaps Dolley overestimates her readers’ ability to infer, as even those with an ability to grasp complex threads of thrillers with multiple red herrings may find The Enforcer too intricate.
“That’s the point,” she responds. “The connections are so obscure, it’s impossible at times to link everything clearly. Tug at one thread and you end up tugging another five, because they are interconnected. That’s exactly how organised crime, together with associated corruption, works. It’s scary.”
Indeed, she has had to be courageous in her career and in researching The Enforcers. “I wouldn’t say I feared for my life. But I thought carefully about where I went. And twice I did hire personal protection.”
Seeking all the answers to the mysterious entanglements is not what the book sets out to do. Rather, it’s Dolley’s contribution to unravelling the ramifications of state capture — both the older, apartheid version, and its more recent aberrant offspring.
In its own way, The Enforcers is a plea for a cleanup — of the streets, the gangs, the police and the political puppetmasters. But the book acknowledges this isn’t going to happen in the foreseeable future
“The fear, for me, isn’t which gangster may be the worst, but rather which police officer or person in the disguise of a police uniform, is the worst.”
And so the corrosion continues. I have reason to walk down Long Street a few days after meeting Dolley. It’s late afternoon and the security heavies are gathering in preparation for their shifts. In broad daylight, I can’t suppress a frisson of angst as I hurry past.