The name Vusi “Khekhe” Mathibela strikes fear in the hearts of many taxi operators and business people in Mamelodi, Tshwane.
The 32-year-old taxi boss is accused of running an extortion ring in the township east of Pretoria which forces local entrepreneurs to pay him a “protection fee”.
Although Mathibela strongly denies the claim, local business people who spoke to Sowetan this week painted a picture of a modern-day Al Capone whose sidekicks move around collecting money from them.
Among his alleged victims are taxi owners who apparently have to pay him R200 a week, per minibus. Spaza shop owners are said to be paying R500 a month.
One taxi operator, who asked not to be named, said Mathibela and “dozens” of his lieutenants “collect money from any and every one in Mamelodi who makes money”.
This week, locals claimed that Mathibela was also behind the “threats” that led to the City of Tshwane suspending its bus service in the township.
Mathibela, who owns a nightclub in Pretoria, shot into prominence when he was among four men charged with the murder of North West businessman Wandile Bozwana. He is currently on R50,000 bail on the Bozwana matter.
He apparently lives in Midrand but occasionally visits the township, sometimes in a convoy of more than 15 cars and surrounded by more than 30 bodyguards, locals say.
“When he visits, it’s a big event here, the streets sometimes get closed from end to end until his big convoy of cars passes,” one local said.
Sowetan spoke to a local businessman who survived an attempt on his life after refusing to pay “Vusi and his people money.”
The businessman has since relocated from the township, fearing for his life, after his friend was shot dead in what he believes was a hit for refusing to pay R150,000.
Mamelodi East police spokesperson Sergeant Sam Shibambo yesterday confirmed that they are investigating a case of attempted murder.
Mathibela, through his spokesperson Elias Skhosana, denied all the accusations. (See sidebar).
Mathibela’s accusers claim that, in the taxi industry, he collects the money through the Mamelodi Amalgamated Taxi Association.
The association’s spokesperson Bonny Ndjishe denied this, saying Mathibela was merely one of their members and not in charge.
“Mata is controlled by the executive, and Mata collects money for the association. These are just allegations that people are making,” Ndjishe said.
A taxi owner who spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed having paid “protection money” to Vusi’s people.
“I’m even scared to even talk about that man, he’s the most dangerous person I know.
“He charges protection money from anyone including the Pakistanis and us, taxi owners,” he said.
The taxi owner added: “If Vusi’s people come looking for money, the best thing to do is to give them the money to avoid any trouble.”