Mad Max, Juju and a R50k hit: Inside a gang war
A plea deal secured by a hitman reveals a plot to take out rival gang leaders, though accomplices are still at large
A gangster hitman from Cape Town has accepted a plea deal of 40 years behind bars for his brazen assassination of a rival Johannesburg gang leader, but police are still hunting for his accomplices, known as Mad Max and Juju.
While the prosecution was able to avoid a lengthy criminal trial to prove Francisco Peter Muller’s guilt, the plea deal has indicated the war between Cape Town gang, the “28s”, and Johannesburg’s “Fast Guns” still rages on.
In his plea agreement, Muller lays out the assassination plot.
He and three accomplices murdered Bosmont resident Cheslin Witbooi, alleged to be a leader of the Fast Guns, a gang that has reportedly been involved in drug trafficking in Gauteng for years.
On April 10 2017, Muller’s associate Elroy Hein was contacted by a man known only as Pitso, who proposed a deal “that members of the 28s gang would come to Johannesburg and kill members of the Fast Guns for a reward of R50,000”.
Hein assembled his group of hitmen: himself, Muller and two others, known only as Mad Max and Juju.
Having accepted the contract, they obtained bus tickets from Cape Town to Johannesburg, arriving on April 12 to meet up with Pitso. The group was provided with firearms and ammunition, including four semi-automatic handguns and a rifle, as well as two photographs, one of which was of Witbooi.
That evening, the group arrived fully armed at Witbooi’s flat in Bosmont. Hein knocked on the door and called out for Witbooi. Juju and Muller opened fire, with the latter firing six shots into the flat through a nearby window.
Witbooi was hit. He died almost immediately.
“The cause of his death was a penetrating gunshot wound to the neck,” the plea agreement reads.
A woman, also inside the flat, was hit. Bullets struck her arm and buttocks. Somehow, she survived.
Witbooi and the woman weren’t the only victims.
During the shootout, Hein was also wounded by a bullet in the head. He died as the men made their getaway.
As the remaining three hitmen made their escape down Populier Street, they met Faeez Bechor, a nearby resident who had heard the gunshots at the flats and was on his way to investigate. The group opened fire on him as well, and as he fell down, he was robbed of his cellphone and left for dead. He died en route to hospital that evening.
The graphic details of the deaths were made known as Muller appeared at the High Court in Johannesburg, where he decided to take the plea deal offered by state prosecutor Paul Schutte.
However, it’s understood he has refused to give information on the whereabouts of Pitso, Juju, Mad Max or the Cape Town gang leaders responsible for calling hits on their Johannesburg counterparts. Because of this, Muller was charged alone.
Muller does admit, however, that he was involved in the Cape Town drug trade and had joined the 28s in 2010. The 28-year-old father of four was brought into the gang by his cousin, one of the gang’s leaders, and says their family had been targeted by rival gangs because of this.
The few mitigating factors acknowledged by the court were that Muller had confessed early on in the investigation that he had helped the state avoid a protracted trial. This also helped the state to avoid having to transport Cape Town witnesses to Johannesburg, and also that “a strong message would be conveyed to would-be offenders” through Muller’s conviction.
While Susan Stewart, councillor for the Joburg suburbs of Bosmont, Newclare and surrounds, said she was glad to hear of the conviction, and added the turf wars and gang violence continued to disturb her and her community.
The ward 82 councillor said she was aware of at least 100 gang-related deaths since she began her tenure eight years ago, with the majority linked to drug turf wars and gang rivalries.
“There is so much drug activity, money is going into certain pockets, so I think they are trying to eliminate their competition,” she said.
But fighting the gangsterism in the area has proven almost impossible, she said, with police often promising to assist and failing to do so.
Every few years, she said, police would bring in Tactical Response Team units to stop the violence. While the number of incidents would drop temporarily, the moment the specialised police units had left, the crimes would go on as usual.
Gang violence, said Steward, had “become the norm”.
“This is a sad thing to say. Children are traumatised at a young age; violence becomes normal to them. The police need to have constant visibility in the area if we have any chance of stopping this,” she said.
Queries sent to local police and the provincial police spokesperson were unanswered by the time of publication.