A 15-year-old self-proclaimed drug addict from the Marikana informal settlement in Philippi has been chained to a 40kg gas cylinder by his mother as a last resort to save him from vigilante attacks. Picture: Bheki Radebe/ANA

Cape Town - A desperate mother of four has resorted to chaining her troublesome son to a 40kg gas cylinder to save him from vigilantes.

This week, Weekend Argus visited the family home in the notorious Philippi East area of Marikana, where the boy, 15, sat on the gas tank, his right leg chained and locked to it.

His agonised mother looked at him and said she had chained him up after “many” vigilante attempts on her son’s life. “I need to save him from angry residents, stop him from using drugs, and a life of crime.”

The boy admitted that he and his friends regularly mugged people of their phones and handbags to feed their tik addiction.

Read: Philippi patrollers 'gang target after alleged vigilante slayings'

The mother, 42, and her family moved to the Marikana informal settlement in 2013 when people from various areas occupied a plot of privately owned land.

The settlement in Philippi East has been in the headlines after 11 people were shot dead there last Friday in what appears to be a battle between residents and gangs.

The boy’s family moved to Marikana from an area near Khayelitsha, hoping for a better life. The mother makes a living selling a range of items.

“There are many people here and I knew business would boom. I never banked on losing my son to drugs and crime.

“I just want my son back; I have tried getting him into rehab, but was turned away, so I am really at my wit’s end.

“I dread the day someone comes here to tell me my son has been killed by the community for having robbed someone.”

The mother had hoped her youngest son would follow in the footsteps of his three older siblings and finish school, but in 2015, her dreams were shattered when she found out he had dropped out of school after getting hooked on drugs.

Also read: 10 confirmed dead in night of terror in Cape township

“I was not aware that he was not going to school. He would leave home as if he was, but I went to the school and was told he had not been going to school for a while, he had dropped out.

“I was so hurt, he had dreams of being a doctor one day. I now regret having brought my children to Marikana because I believe he would still be in school and not addicted to drugs had we stayed where we were.”

The boy told Weekend Argus he was addicted to methamphetamine (tik), as well as mandrax.

He confessed to having anger issues after his father denied paternity when he was just 6 years old.

He dropped out of school in Grade 6, but had started using drugs and experimenting with benzine in 2015 before leaving school.

“As time went on, I stopped going to school and would hide in the bushes until school was over then go home, until I decided to drop out completely. By then I had also started doing tik and mandrax,” he said.

To feed his drug habit, he and his friends would “rob people of their cellphones, handbags and even sneakers and jackets”.

“There is a bridge connecting Lower Crossroads to Mandalay, so we would rob people on the bridge or we would go into Luzuko and rob people there, then come back, buy tik, and smoke. But every time I smoke, I want more so that is why I would rob people.”

Having given up on his dream of becoming a doctor, the boy said he now wanted to learn carpentry as he was good with his hands. “I do the welding and carpentry in the house and I love it. I can’t go back to school, it is too late for me, but I do want to quit drugs,” said the troubled teen.

A total of 28 people have been killed in the area over the last month. Most people now fear for their lives as they say criminals are terrorising them in their own homes.

Residents went on a rampage attacking and burning known criminals in a bid to rid their community of crime.

The residents have also formed patrols to scour Marikana and sections of neighbouring Lower Crossroads, and assault those identified as trouble makers.

Police confirmed that 11 people were killed last Friday night; a further seven people were killed near the area, with five men beaten to death on the night of September 26. The seven deaths were “believed to be vigilante murders”, said the police.

On September 12, three men were burnt to death in the area. This was followed by the stoning of another suspected thief two days later.

A memorial service for the 11 people will be held on Tuesday evening in Marikana, but details of the service are yet to be made available.

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Weekend Argus