Cape Town 121003 A 15 year old gangster from Bontihauwel Photoj by Michael Walker

Caryn Dolley

“THE first time you stab someone, it’s skrikkerig (frightening). Once you have the taste of blood, you can’t get rid of it.”

These are the words of a 15-year-old gangster from Bonteheuwel.

He belongs to the Stoepa Boys (STB) gang, which has a footing in a number of gang hot spots including Lavender Hill and Elsies River.

“You don’t understand. If we don’t join, we going to be slaughtered,” another STB member, a 14-year-old from Lavender Hill, says.

The two are standing on a street corner in Bonteheuwel, near to Amandal Road, where a number of shootings have occurred.

Four younger boys mill around them.

The two teenagers became gang members at age 12 because they got involved in fights at school and wanted the backing of a group.

“You see, so if a Fancy Boy gangster comes to me and says he wants to verdala (fight) we call my friends, the STB, and we go fight... One day we’ll kill for each other,” the 15-year-old says.

Asked to name their rival gangs, the younger boys join in as the two teenagers list the Americans, Junky Funky Kids and Mongrels.

Neither of the two have tattoos indicating they’re from a gang.

“I’m ready to take one next year. But I’m first going to get my mommy’s name over here, then get STB over here,” the 14-year-old says pointing to his inner arm.

The 15-year-old plans to get his “ranka” (gang tattoos) in prison.

“I will take one in jail. When I go to jail, I want to go when I’m weak and I want to get strong in jail. That’s how other gangsters will respect me,” he says.

His younger friend has a different idea: “When I go to jail I want to be a brother (well-embedded in a gang) already so they won’t hurt me.”

The two have both been wounded in gang fights.

The 15-year-old shows me a small scar near his right elbow, while the 14-year-old proudly lifts his T-shirt revealing a knotted scar on his stomach.

“I was stabbed with a screw driver. It was a bad fight,” he says.

When it comes to weapons, they both walk the streets with butterfly knives.

“I used to have a 9mm pistol, but I got rid of it because the police always search us,” the 15-year-old says.

He has stabbed rival gangsters before.

“In the last one I got him in the back and the shoulder. I walked passed him and so he whistled and made for me like this signal that I must uitkyk (watch out). So my friend gave me a knife. I just flipped it open and stabbed him.

“It’s all about the bavana (blood).”

The 15-year-old, a grade 8 pupil, wants to become an architect.

“I’m not really proud of being in a gang, but it’s difficult to get out. My parents don’t know what I’m doing. They have warned me that if I become a gangster I have no future. We’ll see.”

The 14-year-old, in grade 7, wants to become a soccer star and is confident he will leave gangsterism in a few years.

As they are talking, the mother of an 11-year-old boy, who is with the two teenagers, walks up.

She says the 15-year-old is violent and a bad influence on her son.

“My child looks up to the STB. I don’t know what to do. I try to keep him inside, but he’ll probably end up a gangster.”

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