Well, I never understood when people told me that it was better to sleep or overcome your stresses when troubled, but now I do. The troubles and conflict I have caused bleed me to death. Unfortunately there was no way in which I dealt with the problems I faced other than to drink them away. I never wanted counselling if I was offered, my friend was my drink.
I lived with my stepfather Josh, in Bizana, Eastern Cape, after my granny chased me away for taking drugs in Flagstaff. Both places are situated in the same province, so not much of a disappearance there. My addiction began in high school where I had joined a gang. They made me feel superior and I felt protected before I involved myself in many crimes. I don’t know how many criminal acts I committed, but nothing lasted. Soon I became a wanted suspect.
My girlfriend reported me to her family after I raped her and laid charges against me. This was the worst I’ve ever done and the consequences were the harshest. I was then expelled from high school and arrested for rape. My mother on the other side never knew anything because she was working in Durban. She only visited once a year and after three years of no visits, we lost contact and bad things started happening.
I first thought this was a curse, without realizing that it was all my fault. I got a criminal record and I then had to go out there and hustle. It was hard but I finally made it. Well this is how my story began…
I met a friend in high school and we became best friends. I never had any bad thought about him because he looked like a good guy. He told me he was new at Overport Secondary School. Mandla was his name. I thought we would work together with focus and achieve our goals of passing every single grade with A’s.
But I was wrong. Mandla had other intentions.
He did not introduce himself to me as a good friend but a cool friend, and I assumed that he could be good. So we hung out together every school break and afternoon. One day he asked me if I was ready to meet up with his friends who he regarded as the ‘Slovas’. I asked him why are they called that and he told me because they are a group who protect and care for each other. And that if I join, nobody would ever bully me.
“Hey majita this is Lubabalo and he’s new to the crew so nimphathe kak’hle,” (treat him well), said Mandla.
I was worried by the fact that I’m involving myself with bad people, as I now know. But I was happy that I felt safe in high school and around my community.
I stopped focussing on my school work because I had no chance to do so. The point was now about popularity and being known as part of the Slovas. I felt scared to reject anything that these guys gave me because I was now part of the gang, meaning I had to be brave. What I did not know, and that scared me, was that these guys came to collect Mandla in school and even pointed the principal with the gun whenever they wanted to.
Mandla and Sipho were the most trusted in the gang because they knew how to steal well and felt no sympathy for anyone. I used to just stare with terror and ask myself questions such as what if I was the victim.
I then decided to take drugs and drink alcohol. Nothing was working for me anymore because of my guilty conscience; of all those people I had to give a hand to victimise and rape. I was now there in every single scene before I developed the same essence. I did the same thing because I felt that I already had blood in my hands.
I asked for a gun from Sipho.
Sipho was surprised that a coward like me could ask for that. Anyway I did this because I was now a mockery of the group. I was always getting teased for not being a true man. I went to Weishop Bottle Store and had a few drinks. I had the gun hidden under the shirt I was wearing. After I finished drinking I went to my girlfriend’s house in the evening and broke into her room and caused a fight with her. Then I pointed her with a gun and raped her.
I didn’t know what I was doing. I did it anyway and now I have a criminal record. I have just been released from jail after being given fifteen years but was cut short to ten years because I was a student. My story to the judge was reasonable and also I was able to point out all the suspects who have been harming people for years such as Sipho, Mandla and his friends.
But I still cry for the opportunities lost, the waste of talent and my life because I did not appreciate my true self. I drink alcohol sometimes to erase the feelings and look for new life.
Tell us: Why do you think people join gangs? Would you ever join one?