President Ramaphosa inspecting the new Gang Unit during a parade. President Cyril Ramaphosa and Minister of Police Bheki Cele together with Premiere of the Western Cape Helen Zille did a walkabout in Hanover Park greeting residents. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town - Police Minister Bheki Cele has confirmed that the shooting of Cape Town defence advocate Pete Mihalik, who was killed on Tuesday morning when he was about to drop off his children at school in Green Point, was related to taxi violence.

Mihalik had represented alleged gang bosses in court, but Cele said: “People should not be in a hurry to think this (advocate’s murder) is gang-related”.

Two suspects were apprehended shortly after Mihalik was shot in the head while in his car. His eight-year-old son was shot in the face, while his teenage daughter fled the car during the shooting. The boy was rushed to hospital, where he is recovering.

The suspects, Sizwe Biyela and Nkosinathi Khumalo from KwaZulu-Natal, are being kept at Sea Point police station until their next court appearance, set to take place next week.

Cele, who spoke on the fringes of the launch of the SAPS anti-gang unit in Hanover Park yesterday, said there was a difference in the manner in which the police dealt with hitmen and gang violence.

“Hitmen are hired to carry out a specific task. That can be dealt with by ordinary police (members), unlike gangsterism,” Cele said.

He dismissed claims that many hit men were based in KwaZulu-Natal, saying there were “fiefdoms” within gangs in which hit men operated.

“We arrested the suspects in the (Mihalik) case. What is important to us is not where they come from, but the crime they allegedly committed.”

Cele said the anti-gang unit would deal with a list of gangsters that police were targeting. Anti-gang units would be established in other provinces in the near future.

“Instead of bringing in the army to deal with gangs, we are bringing a specialised anti-gang unit, which will provide a faster response to gang violence in the Cape Flats and in other areas,” the minister said, adding that the unit would work closely with prosecutors to ensure gangsters were convicted of crimes they committed.

President Cyril Ramaphosa greets residents of Hanover Park during a walkabout yesterday at the launch of the anti-gang unit. He was accompanied by Police Minister Bheki Cele, Premier Helen Zille, below, and national and provincial officials. Picture: Henk Kruger/ African News Agency (ANA)

The Cape Town unit is led by Major-General Andre Lincoln and has 95 members. At least 50 vehicles, including vans, 4x4 bakkies and high-performance BMW hatchbacks were handed over to the unit yesterday. The launch was attended by President Cyril Ramaphosa, National Police Commissioner General Khehla Sitole, and senior police officers and political leaders.

Ramaphosa urged members of the public to co-operate with the unit and report all gang activity in their communities.

He condemned the killing last month of Hanover Park Gift of the Givers volunteer Ameerodien Noordien, 20, who was hit in the crossfire between gangs near his home.

Noordien’s killing sent shock waves through the suburb and brought national attention to the prevalence of gang violence in the Cape Flats.

“When there is gang warfare, it is the innocent that suffer. It is young people like Ameerodien who get killed, and that is not acceptable,” Ramaphosa told Hanover Park residents.

“You have been living under siege from criminals. Today we are here to say: ‘We have heard your cries.’”

Ramaphosa said the streets of Hanover Park did not belong to gangsters, “They belong to you, the people of this area”.

He sent a strong message to gangsters, saying: “We are not afraid of you, we are coming for you”.

Meanwhile, the chairperson of the portfolio committee on police, Francois Beukman, hailed the launch of the anti-gang unit.

“The committee has on a number of occasions during... Parliament pushed for the re-establishment of these specialised units, which should be specially trained to deal effectively with changing environments in gang-infested areas,” he said.

“The committee is of the view that the unit will play a central role in weakening the capacity of gangs to operate and put a halt to activities such as the production and sale of drugs while reducing the number of illegal firearms and the high incidence of gang-related murders.”

Weekend Argus