Lawyer’s murder brings gangs back to Cape suburbs
Killing of Pete Mihalik and wounding of his son is a brutal reminder that Cape Flats gangs are on their doorstep
Anyone who still thinks gangsterism in Cape Town is a “Flats” issue had another rude awakening on Tuesday, when a leading criminal advocate was executed as he dropped his children at their private school.
Pete Mihalik, 50, died in his R2.3m Mercedes-Benz AMG outside Reddam House Atlantic Seaboard in Green Point as he dropped off his son and daughter around 7.35am.
The execution of a long-standing member of the Cape Bar, and the fact that it happened outside a school where he was paying about R80,000 a year to educate each of his children, brought the Cape Flats gang war crashing into the posh suburbs yet again.
Next week, Mihalik was due in the Cape Town Regional Court to defend client Nafiz Modack, who faces trial for allegedly extorting hundreds of thousands of rand from the Grand Africa Café in Green Point.
Many sources believe the forthcoming trial is behind Tuesday’s execution. Establishing that link will be a key objective in the anti-gang unit’s interrogation of a suspect who was arrested within hours of Mihalik’s killing.
Since 2015, Modack and his co-defendants have been at war with a rival group headed by alleged mafioso Mark Lifman‚ Jerome “Donkie” Booysen and bouncer boss André Naudé for control of nightclub security in Cape Town.
Security is only the entry point, however. Control that and you decide who sells drugs inside a club. You also get to tell club owners who, from alcohol suppliers to upholsterers, they are allowed to do business with. It is a licence to print money.
That’s why the stakes are so high in the battle between the rival groups, and why so much blood has been shed beyond the traditional Cape Flats heartland of the city’s gangs over the past three years: In November 2016, Mihalik’s attorney colleague Noorudien Hassan, who was linked to high-profile gang cases, was murdered outside his home in Lansdowne;
The following night, father-of-three Craig Mathieson, 44, the night manager of Lifman’s Hotel 303 in Sea Point, was murdered inside the building;
In April 2017, three men walked into Café Caprice on the Camps Bay beachfront and opened fire, wounding two people;
In August 2017, alleged international steroid dealer Brian Wainstein was shot and killed in bed at his Constantia home; and
In February 2018, Angelo Dimov and his wife, Nessie Peeva, were shot dead execution-style at their Bergvliet home. Mihalik knew he could be next. “Live by the sword, die by the sword,” he often told a friend. But it is doubtful he imagined the circumstances in which he was shot.
Another friend said Mihalik would certainly have placed his body between the gunman and his eight-year-old son, Daniel, a boy he was “devoted to”, and who featured with Mihalik in the lawyer’s latest WhatsApp profile picture, taken on a beach.
Daniel was hit by one of the bullets fired in Tuesday’s attack, and treated at Somerset Hospital minutes away from the scene of the shooting.
“Pete would be devastated to know that his child got injured,” said Mihalik’s friend, Estelle Ellis, a senior reporter on The Herald in Port Elizabeth.
Shirley Oosthuizen, the head of the Reddam preparatory school, wrote to parents shortly after the shooting to say the school was in lockdown.
“Our security company is busy dispensing extra security and guarding. We will keep it so for the rest of the day as we work together to get through this extremely traumatic time for everyone,” she said.
Mihalik’s wife, Karin, hanged herself on Table Mountain in 2015, and the lawyer told a friend that the experience of coping with her suicide persuaded him to defend Jason Rohde.
The Johannesburg businessman is on trial in the High Court in Cape Town for the murder of his wife, Susan, at Spier in Stellenbosch. Rohde says Susan committed suicide by hanging herself with the cord of a hair iron in the bathroom of the couple’s hotel room.
“That could have been me,” Mihalik told a friend, explaining that he was convinced of Rohde’s innocence.
Western Cape community safety MEC Dan Plato, who is due to take over from Patricia de Lille as mayor of Cape Town on Thursday, said the attack on Mihalik was “a serious threat to the entire criminal justice system”.
“With 83% of all gang-related murders in South Africa occurring in the Western Cape, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s launch of Police Minister Bheki Cele’s new anti-gang unit this Friday seems too little too late,” he said.
“The families of the hundreds who died last year alone at the hands of gangsters and druglords need to be assured that the police are the ones in control of law and order. Cape Town and the Western Cape cannot be ruled by figures from the underworld.”
With talk already swirling of revenge attacks, Plato will find out sooner rather than later if the police can meet his expectations.