Vusi 'Khekhe' Mathibela appears in the Pretoria Magistrate's court. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)
Pretoria - The usually bustling township of Mamelodi was quiet on Thursday as alleged criminal kingpin Vusi “Khekhe” Mathibela appeared in court.

Those interested and who didn't make it to the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court huddled in street corners with cellphones in hand, anxiously awaiting any news of the man dubbed Mamelodi’s No 1 Tsotsi.

When a video of Mathibela walking into the dock wearing a black hoodie and glasses was splashed all over social media, tongues started wagging. Many knew of his existence but had not been able to put a face to the 32-year-old.

“There is no way this is him - this cute, skinny boy. Is he the one causing such havoc in Mamelodi?” said one resident.

An elderly resident responded: “Gangsters are not what they used to be. Back then it was rough-looking men with scars and piercing eyes, maybe even a scar or two. This is just a boy.”

But those who know Mathibela have described him as "the devil incarnate”.

A former dealer said all the drugs in the township had to be bought from Mathibela, who knew who was doing what there.

“With a heavily armed entourage, he told all the drug dealers in Mamelodi to stop buying from their suppliers and buy from him or die.”

A spaza shop owner said although he had never been confronted, he knew of foreigners paying R500 a month for protection.

“Khekhe doesn’t do the dirty work. His hands are clean. If you don’t do it, he kills you,” he said.

A marshal at a taxi rank in Mamelodi West said: “This boy is trigger-happy. If you go against his orders or he suspects you are cheating him, he kills you.”

The marshal added Mathibela dealt only with the big shots while his cronies saw to the rest.

A Mamelodi Business Forum member said people in the township had been more relaxed since Mathibela's arrest on Tuesday. “Business people want him locked up for good. He is a bully,” he said.

Mathibela is accused of running an extortion ring, but some see him as a Robin Hood of the township.

“He steals from the rich and gives to the poor. He also does what the police are scared of doing: chases away foreigners who deal in drugs and prostitution,” said a resident.

“He brought order to Mamelodi when outsiders were taking over the township. There is no revolution without bloodshed,” said an admirer.

“Ask anyone in a township about Mamelodi; they will tell you not to mess with us.”

Pretoria News