5 November 2018

South Africa: Losing 'Peacemaker' Mihalik Likely to Create Bigger Chasm in Underworld - Colleague

Photo: Netwerk24/Youtube
Video screenshot of the crime scene outside Reddam House School where Pete Mihalik was killed.

It goes without saying that the apparent hit on Cape Town lawyer Pete Mihalik outside his child's school almost a week ago has had an impact not only his family but those who find themselves on either side of the law.

As loved ones mourn the 50-year-old's loss and hope for the speedy recovery of his son who was injured during the attack, many who knew him are on high alert for their own safety and are wary to speak out.

It is understood that those close to the slain lawyer have tightened security around them in the wake of the murder, with some hiring bodyguards and ordering their families to leave the province.

"It has turned my life upside down," one associate admitted.

Mihalik was well known and had over the years become the go-to lawyer for underworld figures and individuals linked to a deadly turf war that has been blamed for numerous assassination attempts and killings in Cape Town.

Two men were arrested after Mihalik was shot dead as he and his children drove up to the Reddam House Atlantic Seaboard school in Green Point in his Mercedes-Benz on Tuesday morning.

Speculation about motive

His daughter was not injured, but his young son was shot and sustained a wound to the jaw.

Sizwe Sinzokohle Biyela, 26, and Nkosinathi Khumalo, 31, have been charged for the "premeditated" murder. They have also been charged with attempted murder, possession of an unlicensed firearm and possession of ammunition.

There is still speculation on the motive for the killing and how many others are involved behind the scenes.

Tongues are also wagging about whether any lawyer will accept an offer to represent one of the accused, who elected not to use Legal Aid.

They return to the Cape Town Magistrate's Court on Thursday.

News24 understands that there will not be a public funeral for Mihalik. Sources say having a mass of lawyers and underworld figures in one place would pose too much of a risk and could be seen as an invitation for "bloodshed".

Mihalik 'a peacemaker'

Attorney Juan Smuts, who knew Mihalik well and worked with him on cases, said it would be irresponsible for him to comment on the case of Mihalik's murder and how it would unfold.

However, he acknowledged the role that Mihalik had played and what his loss might mean.

"Pete's clients were very loyal and protective towards him over the years, however, this unfortunate incident will in all likelihood cause a bigger chasm between the respective groups in the underworld," he told News24.

"Indeed, Pete was the mediator and peacemaker in the underworld and always endeavoured to bring calmness to the table."

Over the past two years, a "turf war" has been raging between a more well-established grouping linked to Sea Point businessman Mark Lifman and a "new" faction headed by Nafiz Modack.

Brothers Colin and Jerome "Donkie" Booysen, who are linked to Cape Town gang Sexy Boys, have been divided with Colin siding with Modack and Donkie with Lifman, News24 reported previously.

It is believed that Mihalik found himself deeply involved in this stand-off and had attempted to intervene to resolve the dispute. Lifman has not yet offered comment.

Mihalik has appeared in court on behalf of Modack and Colin.

'R1m hit'

On Sunday, a source close to Mihalik said that those who conspired to kill him "left too many loose ends".

"They thought they [would] get away with it again, but this time they left too many loose ends. This thing is just insanely dangerous as these people don't care who they hurt in the process to get what they want. That is why none of us are saying anything publicly," the well-placed source who has knowledge of Cape Town's underworld, said on Sunday.

The source went on to confirm a Sunday Times report that a R1m hit was put out on Mihalik from jail.

"It is all true."

The newspaper reported that two crime figures arranged with a Gugulethu tavern owner who was serving time in jail for armed robbery to have the lawyer killed. The tavern owner then allegedly contacted a Khayelitsha taxi boss who hired the hitmen.

Netwerk24 reported on Monday that police were still looking for the taxi boss, who is believed to have fled to Johannesburg.

Western Cape police have not yet confirmed to News24 whether they are still looking for additional suspects or expect to make further arrests.

In response to these questions, Captain FC van Wyk said: "Kindly be advised that detectives are following up all leads".

"I just want justice to be served and for everyone in the legal fraternity to do their jobs without fear, favour or prejudice," said the source.

'Not linked to taxi violence'

According to Netwerk24, the murder of Mihalik could be related to his representation of the accused in the case against taxi driver Nkosithandile Cekasayo, two of his brothers and another man. They reportedly appeared in the Western Cape High Court on a charge of murder and three of attempted murder.

According to the indictment and summary of substantial facts, they allegedly shot dead two people at the Nyanga taxi terminus on July 25, 2013, after meeting over a dispute.

The case is expected back in court later this month and it is not yet clear who will step in as their new defence lawyer.

However, the source claimed that Mihalik's death was not related to taxi violence.

"This is definitely not taxi violence. Those taxi guys worshipped Pete and told me the other day it would make more sense to take out the prosecutor in the case than Pete."

Source: News24

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