Intimate Friendship? A Man’s Relation with a Drug Lord

David calls his deceased ex-boss the ‘lanie of the site’. The term lanie, in this case, designates the power and status of the head of the drug house. The term was once predominantly used for white males and has shifted its meaning to encompass people who can afford an upper-class livestyle. Lanie has a somehow negative connotation when it is used to point at middle-class Coloureds or Whites. However, in this context David uses it in reference to a man for whom he became one of four “guards” selling methaphetamine and heroine. Although David calls the man also a “friend” the relationship was characterized by an unequal distribution of power. He provided tik and money for clothing and food with which David was able to support his wife and his two children. He also made sure that David was protected, that is no street gangster could hit him without having to fear lethal revenge. In exchange the young man sold tik and heroine, and took up arms to fight off enemies if his boss asked him to do so.  “His friends didn’t like how this guy treated me. He gave me everything, all that stuff, man.” David alluds to the envy his close relationship to the strongman generated and goes on “They were his friends but I saw with my own eyes that these guys don’t like him and he knew it.”

Last year, David’s moved out of the backyard shed in which he lived with his family to move into the drug house. The business was flourishing since it was the only so-called smokkol within a radius of approximately half a kilometer. In the Cape Flats smokkol refers to a place in which substances are smuggled or sold illegally. Most of these sell-outs specialize in one substance: alcohol referred to as booze, heroine called unga, metaqualone known as mandrax, or methamphetamine called tik. Within the larger neigborhood in question I encountered a high density of smokkols. Some tik houses were located at less than 100 meters walking distance from each other. In the neighborhood in which drug use is uniquitious, I learned that the lower the density of smokkols for a particular substance, the higher the potential revenue for the merchant. Two years ago, when David was not yet involved, I wittnessed how different gangs and fractions of gangs already competed for the site in which he was about to get involved. It was and is located in an area characterized as tranquil and relatively untouched by gangsterism. The situation was somehow intricate.

In the past, several people indicated that this particular smokkol generated revenue for a drug lord of gang A, until the owner of the premises on which the sell-out was located started to run a scam on his superiors. He and some accomplices from the Number gang became independent. Formerly the Numbers were called a prison gang since initiations into the network and its operation were restricted to state prisons. In this case, the affiliation to the Number gang provided a common link for a small group of “friends” to take over the lead from the strongman of the local street gang A which subsequently demanded a cut. Since this cut was not regularly paid off, the men who took over the site are wary of a revenge by gang A. Three weeks ago, the official version goes, David’s patron succumbed to lung cancer. This significantly weakend his position in the “game” and makes him vulnerable to attacks by other gangsters. David reckons that he may  be played off against gang A and become a scapegoat sacrificed for the outstanding account. “I’m powerless right now,” he concludes. Although he is not selling drugs anymore, he rents out the former drug house for a mere R100 a month. His wife and his two children have moved in. Currently, David wants to bail out but the past is haunting him for yet another reason…

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>