Several Cape Town business owners have decided to pause operations after receiving threatening letters from extortionists demanding protection money.
One of the criminals signs his letters “Vladimir Putin”, but has no known connection to the amaRussia gang operating in Gauteng.
A business owner in Mitchell’s Plain, speaking on behalf of the community, said: “Our businesses are not doing well, we are struggling to make a profit, and yet we are forced to pay R1,500. Where are we going to get the money?”
The letters threaten frightening consequences for those who fail to make the regular payments.
“I don’t know how we are going to put food on the table for our families,” said the shop owner.
“We were shocked to see that one of the contacts we have to deal with goes by the name of ‘Vladimir Putin’. What is that? Why are they doing this to us while we are trying to take care of our families?”
In Mandalay, another affected area, business owners have been handed a demand to pay R300 in protection fees starting from 25 November.
One business owner voiced the painful reality.
“There is nothing more painful than starting a business from scratch without anything but pushing through, and when things start looking up someone comes and demands money. How did we end up here?” he asked.
The crisis has forced some residents to make drastic decisions. One resident told Scrolla.Africa that friends have relocated to the Eastern Cape after being forced by extorters into selling alcohol.
He shared his friend’s experience.
“The extortionists visited him, demanding that he must pay them R1,000. He closed his business, and when they came to collect money, they didn’t find anyone buying or drinking in his place. That’s when they forced him to sell liquor for them if he decided to close down. What they are doing is very bad,” said the resident, who cannot be named for fear of being targeted.
“I hope one day they will stop.”
Mayoral committee member for safety and security, JP Smith, said they are aware of the issue and the matter has been escalated to the relevant City services and the police.
“Between 1 January and 10 November this year, the City assisted in registering 77 cases related to extortion with the SAPS,” said Smith.
By staff reporter
Pictured above: Some Cape Town business people will soon start closing their shops after receiving letters from extortionists demanding protection fees.
Image source: Supplied