People Against Gangsterism and Drugs (PAGAD) has claimed the arrest of Rondebosch restaurateur Irshaad Laher on gun smuggling charges is the “tip of the iceberg” and many Cape Town gangs are being bankrolled by prominent businessmen.
And while a proposed boycott of Spur and Nando’s outlets was called off after Mr Laher last week disclosed he had sold his shares in these businesses, activist movement Gangsterism Must Fall believes companies should improve their vetting processes when choosing potential franchise-holders.
Mr Laher, 41, was arrested on Tuesday June 23 and charged with gun smuggling, corruption, theft of firearms and ammunition, possession of prohibited firearms, selling and money laundering.
He appeared in the Bellville Magistrates Court last week and was released on R100 000 bail. (“A taste for guns,” Tatler, June 30).
Pagad deputy national co-ordinator Haroon Orrie said it came as no surprise that a prominent businessman had been arrested on these charges.
“From the inception of Pagad, 19 years ago, we knew this was going on. It was clear that the gun and drug trade among the gangs was being bankrolled by prominent businessmen,” Mr Orrie said.
“Even when we began as an organisation, business people who were worried about the situation came to us to tell us this was happening. But when we went to the police with this information, they did nothing. Nobody listened, not even the government. Now we only share this information with the public and media.”
Mr Orrie said it was time the public knew the truth about how gangs were funded.
“There are billions of rand that are being made from the drug and gun trade, and there are prominent businessmen who are at the forefront of this. They live in the wealthy suburbs, but most people aren’t even aware of them. As Pagad, we are committed to exposing these people, who are pure evil.”
In a radio interview with Voice of the Cape on Thursday June 30, Mr Laher said he had taken the decision to sell his franchise shares “because so many people’s lives have been hurt because of this”.
Mr Laher’s attorney, Noorudien Hassan, confirmed to the Tatler that his client had sold his shares in two Spurs, in Observatory and Ottery, and two Nando’s outlets, in Belgravia Estate and Gardens.
In the wake of a strong public backlash on social media, the Gangsterism Must Fall campaign called for the boycott of Mr Laher’s restaurants, which was withdrawn once he had announced he would be giving up his shares.
But spokesman Roscoe Jacobs maintained it was important to drive home the message that businesses be vigilant when choosing their clients.
“We need to establish if the business is being run legitimately, or whether in cases such as these it is being used as a front,” Mr Jacobs said.
“We would also like businesses like Spur and Nando’s to show they are serious about combating crime and gangsterism by investing in organisations that are campaigning against them.”
In a statement released on Friday July 1, the Spur Group said it cared about its communities and for many years had been committed to supporting a number of early childhood development centres, where children were nurtured and deterred from becoming involved in crime and gangsterism as they grew up.
“We take this commitment to our communities very seriously.
“What Mr Laher is accused of goes against everything that we believe in and goes against what the Spur brand stands for.”