“Ola Ntini! Come here, Ntwana,” Sandiso called me, as I walked past the house that he and his friend were hanging next to. Sandiso had been friends with Zanoxolo when they were still young; they were inseparable in primary school. But everything had changed when they entered high school. Sandiso started smoking tik and robbing people to get his fix.

“Why do you pass us like we are strangers?” he asked.

“I didn’t see you; I was thinking about things,” I said. I think he saw in my eyes that I had been crying.

“Hey, Asanda, pass me that,” he reached out for the zol his friend was smoking. Asanda passed it to him and inhaled deeply, then passed the zol to me. “Here, take a pull and all your stresses will go away,” he said.

I took the zol reluctantly and inhaled. I coughed and they laughed at me. I inhaled again and my head became heavier. The heartache that had been caused by my mother minutes ago slowly faded.

“We know the boys who killed Zanoxolo. One of them is inside that house right now. I think his relatives live there,” Sandiso said, pointing at a house opposite us.

I thought of how Zanoxolo was killed and I could feel my anger building up. “And you didn’t do anything about it. You let him go. Zanoxolo was once your best friend, Sandiso, remember that,” I said. The weed was doing its work on me. I didn’t question whether what Sandiso said about the boy was true.

“Who says we are letting him go? The police haven’t caught him, but we can. Come on, take this knife. We are going to stab him when he comes out.” Sandiso took an Okapi knife out of his pocket and handed it to me.

This was happening very fast for me. There was no time to step back and think about the decisions I was making. If I had been my usual self, I would have been scared and walked away. But I wasn’t. I suddenly had the impulse to kill.

When that boy came out of the house he was accompanied by an older girl. I could see, by the shock and fear on his face when we blocked his way, that he didn’t see us coming. The girl screamed and tried to shield him from us.

“Please guys, let me go! I am not a gangster. I just came to visit my uncle, not to cause trouble. Please let me go,” the boy pleaded.

“Voetsek, wena!” Sandiso said, shoving the girl away.

I jumped at the boy and stuck the knife in his neck. He started bleeding, and staggered. Asanda struck him over his head. The boy fell to the ground.

I got on top of him and stabbed him again and again. I was crying as I stabbed him, “Why? Why? Why did you kill my brother?”

We heard the police sirens approaching and ran away, leaving the boy lying there in a pool of blood. I followed Sandiso and Asanda to a shack deep in the squatter camp. The shack was stashed with home appliances. Sandiso and Asanda threw themselves on an old stinking sofa after locking the door. My hands and clothes were covered in blood.

My world stopped then, as I became aware of the meaning of what had just happened.

* * *

Tell us: Does the fact of his brother’s death make a difference to how much responsibility Phumlani must take for his actions?