Police officers under the instruction of then-President Nelson Mandela infiltrated Cape Town’s underworld in the late 90s, it emerged in the Western Cape High Court this week.
This information has surfaced as an intense underworld battle over club security is playing out in Cape Town. A new faction started moving in and taking over the lucrative bouncer trade from an older, more established grouping earlier this year. This takeover has resulted in several shootings and other violent incidents.
Several sources with links to policing and the underworld believe the shift in the club security industry has been orchestrated by police and informants trying to take down key underworld players. The State Security Agency has previously denied this to News24. But rumours of police, Hawks and Crime Intelligence officers’ involvement in the underworld shift have persisted. In the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday, in a civil trial focusing on a top police officer in the province, Major-General Andre Lincoln, it emerged that police officers did in fact previously infiltrate the underworld. Closing arguments were heard in the matter this week.
Lincoln’s version of events, according to his closing argument, included that in 1996 Mandela had tasked him to head a unit, the Presidential Investigative Task Unit (Pitu), which was to probe the underworld.
Infiltrating the underworld
“The mandate of Pitu was named Operation Intrigue, a secret operation functioning in a covert manner gathering secretive or confidential information on its main targets through surveillance and infiltration of the criminal underworld operating around the nightlife of Cape Town, most of whom were connected to police officers operating on the ground,” his closing argument said. The presidential task unit, according to Lincoln’s argument, did not have to operate within the confines of the police as it was a specialised unit.
“Its tasking and reporting channels were therefore different to that of the South African Police,” it said. “Whereas other investigations within the police would report directly to the line function and hierarchy of the department in which the investigation is conducted, Pitu reported directly to the President and/or the Minister of Safety and Security.”
R15m civil claim
Lincoln is claiming R15m in damages from the minister of safety and security (now the minister of police). He alleges fellow senior police officers realised he had gathered intelligence on their plans, including one to murder Mandela, so they framed him. He also wants judgment passed over, what his legal team has termed, the “malicious investigation and instigation of prosecution” against him. The presidential task unit had also been focused on probing Cape Town based mafioso Vito Palazzolo. But Lincoln went on to be arrested when criminal allegations, including claims about an inappropriate relationship with Palazzolo, against him and others in the unit surfaced.
Lincoln was discharged from the police in 2003 over the Palazzolo matter, amid allegations he was protecting the mafioso. But he was reinstated in 2010 after being acquitted of the charges. Counterfeit dollars and Mandela ‘murder’ weapon Lincoln previously testified that during the presidential investigative unit’s initial investigations it was uncovered that Simon Nothnagel, attached to the police’s commercial crime unit, was allegedly involved in a counterfeit US dollar operation. These dollars, according to Lincoln’s testimony, were printed at police headquarters in Pretoria.
This investigation led them to uncover the alleged plot to kill Mandela and recover, in police offices, a “handcrafted rifle” which would have been used in the attempt.A ruling in the matter is expected at a later stage.