The next afternoon we are back on the dusty soccer pitch like nothing happened last night.

Majita, guys, we are wasting our time with playing football. We are not going to turn pros anyway,” says Lwando when we get back to our hideout, our old ruined house behind the village.

We don’t answer. Lwando has become a ‘sort of’ leader overnight. We allow it. Nobody crosses him. Overnight it has become a case of what he says goes.

“Nosiviwe is having a birthday party tomorrow. You know what the Black Tights have to do?” says Lwando.


“A gang has to do what a gang has to do. You boys are sissies.”

Mfundo looks at me.

“Boys, we gate crash the party and take control.”

“It’s not like these girls will go there with money. What would the Black Tights want from them?” asks Mfundo.

“Mfundo, Mfundo, Mfundo… follow and learn my boy,” replies Lwando.

I think that Lwando has gone mad as he cups his crotch with his left hand to make his point. “If you guys do what I am thinking tonight, then I will know you own this place. That way you will be respected.”

He stands above us, like a teacher. His right hand grips my left shoulder: “Hear me – untouchable boys,” he says, shaking my shoulder. His foot stomps on the ground with each word.

We remain silent.

* * * * *

The next day when I come home from watching a soccer game, umama ukwelite inyama yehagu, she has bought pork meat on credit. Idombolo, the dumplings, sit fat and tasty on the enamel plate in the kitchen. Nonyaniso is not going to start a fight with big brother, now. Not when there is such good food. It’s all she can think about, drooling over the meat.

Thathani ukutya, take your food,” says Mama.

We take the enamel plates that are set out on the checked red and white table cloth, heaped with meat and dumplings.

Ah, bhuti maan,” Nonyaniso says.

I look at her, surprised. Why am I bhuti today all of a sudden? Every other day she screams my name at the top of her voice. She has been telling me how her friends and her have nothing good to say about me anymore.

Ah, bhuti maan,” she says again.

“What is it?”

Khawusike kaloku, please cut me another piece!”

“Nonyaniso, you have a plate full of meat in front of you.”

“I need to eat a lot, if I’m going to dance at Nosiviwe’s early tonight. After that I am going to be with…” she says and laughs.

I remember that it’s the party tonight. And I remember Lwando grabbing his crotch as he told us what he planned to do. And I want to warn Nonyaniso. But I remain silent.

* * * * *

It is still early evening when I meet the gang in the deserted building. With some of the money robbed from Tat’uLudwe, we have bought two bankies of dagga.

“Are we wearing tights for tonight’s mission?” asks Mfundo.

“Are you fucking mad? How are we going to a party with black tights over our heads?” asks Lwando.

I look around the group. We are all wearing our best clothes for the party. I have on a red hoodie, skinny jeans and my only pair of white sneakers. Only mother knows when I will get new shoes.

After we’ve smoked up the room we step out into the cool night and make our way to the party.

The moon comes up, full now from behind the distant hills. It gives us tall shadows as we walk on the footpaths cutting through the village to Nosiviwe’s house. Our left hands are deep in our pockets, our right hands wave as we walk.

Dogs bark as we walk past the houses. We are not too worried now about barking dogs. We are dressed like humans, not ghosts with black tights over our heads. Our mission has not started.

Nosiviwe stops us at the door, “No, you are not invited,” she says to Lwando, her hand against his chest pushing lightly, like she’s only half serious…

“Alright, alright,” Lwando puts his hands up. “What do we do to get in?”

“Nothing, just go.”

“Your house music is bad man. Useless. We can go get our latest CDs for you. We will bring some vodka as well,” says Lwando, and flashes her one of his charming smiles.

Nosiviwe runs inside. In a few minutes she comes back.

“Deal. Bring your music and vodka. But don’t think we have anything for you – maybe just a piece of sausage each,” she adds.

We walk away to Lwando’s place.

“Aha, ha ha! A piece of sausage each!” laughs Lwando.

“At least that is something. Don’t be ungrateful Lwando,” I say to him, getting irritated by his new found arrogance.

We get the CDs and bottle of vodka and head back to Nosiviwe’s place. The party is filling up when we get there and we have to push to get through the door.

* * *

Tell us what you think: Why are some people persuaded by gangsters like Lwando?