I was born here and never left here until Bishop Aldean set up the student exchange program where a couple of us kids got to go to the States for a year. That was alright.
I pitied the poor bastards who come to Manenberg while I go to Kansas City, but I learned later the American kids got sent to Cape Town proper. They lived with a nice white family.
Coming back was hard. I saw Manenberg with fresh eyes. Three of my schoolmates were killed in the gang fights. The youngest one, Ashwin, was lynched in front of the school.
I saw if I was to survive, I’d best join a gang. Going to States gave me prestige, so I could pick and choose. All of them approached me–the Sexy Boys, the Mongrels, the Firm.
In the end, I opted for the Hard Livings.
They call me Kansas City.
In post-apartheid Manenberg, gangs are the way of life. Shootings, lynchings and executions by fire are daily occurrences, and the drugs and violence of gang culture are everywhere. The schools in Manenberg are jacketed by bullet-resistant walls, but hundreds of children miss school or drop out altogether because their school is in a territory controlled by a gang different from the one that controls the street they live in.
Many parents live with trauma and lifelong loss of their children, shot or knifed to death in gang warfare. Most of these children were not gangsters themselves; they were killed because they refused to join a gang or were caught in crossfire.