Plotting to avenge a fallen brother starts at the graveyard
The “after-tears” parties in the townships are in stark contrast to the usual post-funeral get-togethers in the northern areas where a victim’s “brothers” will have a drink and immediately start plotting their revenge.
This was the view of northern areas gangsters, both past and present, as they reflected on the deaths of their friends and family members, which subsequently usually saw more bloodshed in the victims’ honour.
Helenvale resident and former Boomshakas gang member Bernard Valentine, 57, said despite leaving the gang almost two decades ago, little had changed in gang culture aside from the weaponry used in crimes.
“We can’t celebrate until we have settled the score. After the funeral the gang members will almost immediately meet to discuss how they can take revenge.”
He said the only difference between today and when he was a gang member was the fact that they used knives, pangas and other types of close-combat weapons, whereas now gangsters shoot from a distance.
“By the time of the funeral, the person responsible for the murder is already identified and then either he or his family is targeted. The gang will not necessarily take out a member of the killer’s gang, because they will just be replaced.”
Two members of the Dustlifes gang, both 23 , agreed with Valentine, saying “after-tears” is more related to township gangs.
“Some boeties [gang members] are very into their cars, and their funerals will have spinning, but normally coloured gang funerals are done quickly to avoid being out there for too long and being targeted by other gang members,” one gang member, who did not want to be named, said.
The other gangster explained how most members at a gang funeral would bring their guns in their girlfriends’ handbags and toddlers’ carry bags to avoid being sitting ducks in the event of a rival gang attacking while they mourned and were vulnerable.
However, they said the gang’s subsequent meetings after a funeral were predominately to plot revenge.
“We have to take out a family member of the shooter for the killer to feel the hurt we do for losing one of our brothers,” a young gangster said.
Former principal in a northern areas school, previously said the sphere of influence gangs carried in the community was immense and threatened the future of pupils both physically and academically.
“I will never forget the year  after Staal [Donovan Berry] died, our matric pass rate increased by 10%. That illustrated the hold these gangsters had on the community, from children to adults.
“And that’s because the kids and family supposedly ‘owe’ these people for the gifts they receive. Staal would often share gifts and donations with people to make him seem like a saviour, but as soon as you accept the gift you owe him.”
He said repaying the gift meant either hiding drugs, guns or even people or transporting items, among other requests.
A former Helenvale gangster, who asked not to be named, said: “Funerals are where we plan and plot the revenge.
“It is at the graveyard where the guys plan how to go about avenging their fallen brother.”
He said the new culture at funerals was for mourners to fire shots into the air in imitation of the official military 21-gun salute.
“They saw it in the military and those who do it are the gangsters who are close to the dead – they call it the 21-gun salute as some sort of goodbye and respect.”
He said that gangs in the northern areas had recently become militarised.
While the 44-year-old gangster would not divulge his gang affiliation, he said in prison he was aligned to the “26s” (the money lovers).
He turned his back on gangsterism when other members of his gang agreed on a “peace deal” without him, and soon after there was a shooting where he wasn’t involved but took the fall.
He served time for three murders and several robberies.
There was a distinct difference between the older generation and today’s gangsters.
“These days they do drugs and they don’t listen when people ask them to stop shooting,” he said.
“You feel bad. I shot a guy and the same bullet hit a child and I didn’t know.”
The child survived.
The gangster was arrested and served six years.