“They’ll be damn sorry when they see us pitch up,” said Bra Biza as the day came to an end and the sky grew dark. A few stars were now visible, twinkling up in the black night sky.

Bra Biza and his gang were set to go ahead with what they had planned.

“Just chill for a while, fellas,” Bra Biza said calmly. “I know you’re all eager, but remember our agreement … past 10 to 12 … Then, and only then, will the bazookas fire!”

As much as the gang members struggled to control their impatience, they had to keep a cool head and take heed ofwhat Bra Biza was telling them. It was only half past seven, which meant that the township streets were still crowded and busy.

“Gents, let’s be clear on the final points,” said Bra Biza. “There are six of us here and there are three public bridges in Manzini, which means we have to split up. We will be separate but not far away from each other. Now here is the approach we are going to take. Bhunga and Vinnie, I want both of you gents to operate at the third bridge on the far end. That space will be your playground and you can bust shots as you like.

Dladla and Max, you will operate on the second bridge – which is in the middle, between the third and the first bridges. Do what you have to do, and as for a policeman … show no pity. Shoot him without fear before he shoots one of you.

Jaman, you’re with me. We will take the first bridge, which is the main public entrance of the residents in Manzini … Like we always do, my brother … we will hunt for our prey until we find them.”

After Bra Biza had spoken, all of the members nodded their heads in full agreement.

“Bra Biza, you nailed it,” Vinnie replied ecstatically. “We will certainly have a blast when we arrive and, most of all, when it’s dark, bears come out to play.”

Bra Biza started to laugh with his fellow gang members at Vinnie’s remark. They were still as high as kites.

“Yes, for sure, Vinnie …” Bra-Biza replied. “Our main advantage is that it will be dark. When we do our killing and when we depart. I can assure you that there will be more dead bodies lying around than witnesses pointing fingers at us. And we will take what we can – cash, jewellery, phones, even clothes.”

Some of the gang sat on the couch, others on wooden chairs. They were dressed in similar clothing, difficult to tell them apart. It was not going to be easy for any resident in Manzini to pinpoint any one gang member as the culprit of a murder.

If there were to be a witness, they would only testify that the killers were wearing black. But that piece of information would prove useless to the police.

By the tiem it was 9pm, a state of great anxiety had mounted amongst the gang members.

“Yes! Yes! Yes!” cried out Bra Biza excitedly, clapping his hands. “Gents, it is time … Let’s bow our heads together …”

Whenever they were about to commit a robbery of murder, they did this ritual of “praying” for their mission.

All the members stood in a circle and placed their arms around each other as they bowed their heads. Bra Biza lead the group and they repeated after him:

Here we are; the diligent gang with fierce discipline.

We honour our soldiers who came before us.

Hasta la vista, we drill! Hasta la vista, we kill!

Here we are … For the comrades and for the crooks,

We salute for glory … forever victorious.

Hasta la vista, we drill! Hasta la vista, we kill!

There was a loud cheer as they hugged one another and shook hands. Should it happen that one of the members not see the others again, at least they had paid their respects.

“Okay, gents,” said Bra Biza. “Heading off to Manzini, we cannot walk in a group. We have to split up to avoid any suspicion from passers-by and people in the neighbourhood. It will be the same division of two units for each bridge. After we are finished by midnight, comrades, we will meet here again.”

“Al right then,” Bra Biza continued jovially. “Operation Salute!”

“Salute!” replied each member as they departed from the shack carrying their weapons hidden inside their black leather jackets.

What the gang didn’t know was, as they left their shack in The Standings area of Edo-Mill, a man was watching them from his window. Macintosh Mabida had a small fruit-and-vegetable store on the corner of the street. He had heard a noise and peered out into the night. Macintosh had seen members of the gang come and go, but never all together. Now he recognised the shape of their weapons in the dark. He moved quietly back, away from the window, as they walked past, laughing about the killing spree they were about to go on.

The gang stuck to the shadows and dark streets in the township and nobody else seemed to notice them. The first to arrive at the Manzini bridges were Jaman and Bra Biza. It was the first of the three bridges used as the gateway to the local taxis by the public.

“Jaman, my outie, we’ll settle down there under the bridge where it is dark and nobody can see us. If we hear any voices or footsteps approaching the bridge, then we get ready for action, right?”

“Right, Bra Biza,” Jaman replied assuredly. “Don’t worry, I’ve got your back.”

Bra Biza and Jaman crept down under the bridge. A small, running stream of shiny water run between the pebbled rocks. They lay against the bank and waited.

At the second bridge, a distance away, Dladla and Max had arrived. “I’ll stay put on the right,” Max said with a sharp tone.

“And I’ll stay put on the left,” replied Dladla.

“We must have a signal, don’t you think?” said Dladla anxiously.

“Of course, of course …” Max replied.

“If one of us should see someone about to pass across the bridge, we should whistle.”

“Sure, Max,” responded Dladla casually.

Max was lying flat on the right side of the bridge and Dladla was squatting like a bullfrog awaiting his prey.

Bhunga and Vinnie arrived at the third bridge.

Not even a minute had passed when a young gentleman, walking alone, approached where Bhunga and Vinnie were waiting. To him, they looked like two Manzini residents coming back from work in the middle of the night.

“I think we’ve got ourselves some good meat over there,” whispered Bhunga to Vinnie excitedly.

“Yep, I can see,” Vinnie replied.

Their pace sped up as they moved towards the young gentleman. As the man was about to pass by, Bhunga and Vinnie blocked his way.

“What do we have here, if it isn’t Farakhan!”said Bhunga.

Hayi! I’m not Farakhan,” replied the gentleman confused. “Sorry, I’m not the person you’re talking about … You must be mistaken …”

“Oh! I see,” Bhunga replied as he stared, unblinking, with his puffy, red eyes behind his balaclava.

“You say I am lost and you think I am mistaken, ha? Well, we will see who’s lost and mistaken at this time of the night …”

Bhunga pointed his AK47 straight at the young man.

Yho! Hayi! What now? Yho!” cried the gentleman at seeing the AK47 in Bhunga’s hand.

Grrrrrr!-Rat-a-tat-tat!-Grrrrrr! … Rat-a-tat-tat!! Bunga fired. The man fell to the ground.

Bhunga’s actions also caught Vinnie by surprise – he hadn’t expected Bhunga to kill the man right there and then.

“Bhunga!” lashed out Vinnie furiously. “Are you bloody crazy?”

Bhunga gave Vinnie a dull, heartless stare and responded: “Yes, Vinnie – I ‘m mad!”

Ja! I told you,” Bhunga continued, amused, as he kicked the dead body of the young gentleman straight over the bridge.