Second-hand gold dealers never ask questions, says Mihalik murder accused

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Pete Mihalik.
Pete Mihalik.
PHOTO: Adrian de Kock
  • None of Cape Town's second-hand gold dealers show any interest in the goods put before them for purchase by sellers off the street.
  • This is according to the third accused on trial for the murder of lawyer Pete Mihalik. 
  • None of the dealers are willing to vouch for his alibi that he was doing a Krugerrand deal at the time of the murder.

The gold exchanges in Cape Town don't ask where the goods they pay cash for come from, the third accused on trial for assassinating lawyer Pete Mihalik claims. 

Vuyile Maliti said he had been "fencing" jewellery and gold coins on the "black market" for years and had never been questioned by the shops dotted all over the city. 

"Not even once did someone ask me where I got the gold," he testified in the Western Cape High Court on Wednesday. 

According to his testimony, the business involves breaking up a chain, weighing it, and being made an offer. As the middleman, he takes a 20% cut of the gold he sells on behalf of other people.

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Maliti, Sizwe Biyela and Nkosinathi Khumalo are on trial for assassinating Mihalik who was about to drop his two children at school on 30 October 2018. All three pleaded not guilty to murder, attempted murder and firearms and ammunition charges. On Wednesday, Maliti also said an emphatic "no" when asked if he was involved in Mihalik's murder. 

Their alibi is that Biyela and Khumalo came from KwaZulu-Natal by Intercape bus to Cape Town with gold Kruger Rand coins for Maliti to sell, then return to KwaZulu-Natal with the cash.

They say that when Mihalik was shot, they were far away in the parking lot of a Spar in Green Point, in a VW Polo negotiating with a potential buyer. And that is why cellphone towers place them in the area.

None of them has an alibi - either because they do not know their alibis' contact details or address, or the alibi is dead.

In Maliti's case, he said the two gold buyers he dealt with the day before the murder and the day of the murder were too scared to testify. "Muhammed" and "Baba" simply would not go to court.

The third buyer, Marc Orten, who he said he eventually sold 11 coins to for R200 000, emigrated to the United Kingdom.

READ | The 'black market' as explained by Mihalik murder accused

Maliti testified that his arrest in November 2018 changed his life profoundly. 

"In the beginning of this case, I had many friends. Now I have friends who don't want anything to do with me because of this case. I haven't spoken to anybody except my wife, my family, and my kids," he said. 

He said he did not take it seriously until he was formally charged. 

"My life will never be the same again," he said.

Mihalik murder accused appear next to each other in court
Vuyile Maliti, Sizwe Biyela and Nkosinathi Khumalo.
Netwerk24 Jaco Marais

One of the last things he did before his life turned upside down was to take his car to the panel beaters and then fetch his son from school. 

Without giving away too much detail, on the day of the murder, his wife called him crying, and he also heard that the police had arrived at his parents' house and "broke things".

Khumalo was the first to be arrested not long after the murder due to a serendipitous traffic stop. Through the contact number saved on his cellphone, his cousin Biyela was traced to the Bellville bus terminus, bound for Durban.

READ | Mihalik 'shooter' says he didn't know he could use an alibi

Maliti testified that after his arrest he had to transfer ownership of his two taxis kept at the Delft rank to his father to keep the annual taxi roadworthy permits up to date. This was so that he and his family would at least get around R20 000 a month from each taxi to support them. 

However, after paying each driver their R5 000 a month salary, he said he had to buy a third taxi through his father to maintain all his expenses and responsibilities. On a good month a taxi might make R30 000 if it was booked for a special occasion. Now, while in custody, the taxis are his only income without the gold sales. 

Things worsened for him on Wednesday when his co-accused, Biyela, told him he was cross with him. 

When Maliti finished his evidence in chief, Biyela's counsel stood up to tell him Biyela was highly offended by the insinuation last week during his description of how the "black market" works. He had testified that when people come from out of town, like Biyela, he suspected they were offloading goods scooped during a robbery.

She told him that Biyela felt wronged by being described as someone who sold stolen coins. 

"He bought the coins from Lucas [a man he met in a shebeen] in KwaZulu-Natal," said his lawyer. 

"And poor Mr Biyela never received his money [for the 11 coins]."

Maliti replied instantly: 

If he took offence, I would like to apologise. But to explain: I did not say that. I am not sure where he got that from. It is just my thinking. In my thinking, it was that he could possibly have stolen it. I could be wrong.

Maliti said he eventually sold Biyela's 11 coins for R200 000, with gold exchange dealer Orten saying he would chip in R2 000 from his own pocket to raise the offer to Biyela's asking price of R200 000.

Maliti was actually disappointed because he thought the coins were worth more than that, and he could have got a bigger cut. But he left and stashed the money at his bonded townhouse in Bardale Village, on the border of Blue Downs and Kuils River. His cut would have been R40 000 (20%).

He said after he was charged with murder, the money was no longer available because "I used it."

The continuing cross-examination by the State on Thursday could tease that out to establish whether there was actually a gold coin deal and a stash of cash. And, if there was, what happened to the cash? Did he spend it on the lawyer who initially flew from Johannesburg to represent him? Did he use it to buy the third taxi?

Khumalo has already testified that his eight coins were in the car that a brazen thief stole from him while he was getting a traffic fine on the morning of the murder, so he lost out.

The State alleges that Biyela was the shooter and Khumalo, a taxi driver from Empangeni, was the getaway driver.

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