No one really knew the origins of Cheru, Atandi, and Goldo, the three mercenaries of Lavender Hill Section 4.
Some said they were Congolese. But that is just as far as people’s imaginations could stretch.
Fadiah, the mayor’s daughter, is the one who knew them best considering she was always at their house. But when she attacked them so viciously, everyone was astounded.
Some medics suspected it was some toxic synthol injections that turned the three mercenaries into dumb, helpless clowns. As they were loaded onto ambulances that fateful morning, everyone could see that their bodies were akin to scalded plastic.
It was the mercenaries’ time to exit the stage. And their exit was met with gratitude from a section that had not known peace during the 2010 Taxi War in Lavender Hill.
In the heat of the moment, mayor Abbas Tunges decreed that the memories of Cheru, Atandi, and Goldo would be honoured; their memories would be personified in gilded monuments at the great gates of Lavender Hill. They were menacing, but nonetheless, they were the enforcers who kept deadly thugs out of our neighbourhood.
We saw that the mayor was mourning his only daughter’s initiation into gangster life. Word has it that one had to commit a daring and/or horrid act as initiation into the gang underworld. And Fadiah had done it clinically and callously.
Mayor Tunges’ residence was in Section 4 of Lavender Hill. He is the one who hired the three mercenaries and armed them with high calibre rifles. He provided them with full combat gear, high-powered motorcycles, and a shared three-bedroomed house.
He is the one who posted them at strategic points of Section 4. Daily, Section 4 woke up to three hulking men guarding their streets. In a month’s time, no other gang was seen at section 4. It became a haven.
It was on the onset of the 2010 Taxi War in Lavender Hill. All the streets to the entire Cape Flats township were rendered impassable.
The Royale Gang and the Vietnam 3 Gang would only sort out their differences in the streets. It was quite a bloody flexing of muscle and a hail of bullets.
This began with Royale dominating the Lavender Hill road networks with their new taxis. It seems Royale were swimming in a fortune for, at that time, they had increased their fleet from 40 taxis to 55.
The Vietnam 3 lagged with only 23 dilapidated taxis that were barely on the road as they were mostly off the road due to mechanical problems. The traffic marshals too weighed in their woes, imposing heavy fines on them again and again.
The frustrations peaked and within no time flared up into something unprecedented.
Only the new drivers of Royale’s new taxis were targeted and so horribly executed. Only five drivers of the new taxis survived, and Retief, the driver of an old taxi was hounded and murdered at his home.
But the streets presented a reliable pattern. The pattern is still remarkable if you see the 18 passengers differently. Those noble passengers, casualties of the war, were collateral damage. You reckon the roads went silent? Occasionally, deafening police sirens would wail across the roads like meteorites across the sky in the darkest of nights.
But then an ominous silence would soon follow, and the dark, dark night would resume its ceaseless soliloquy; its eternal reminder of the tragedy that befalls a people when the police become spectators in an epic match among rival gangs. That year was Lavender Hill’s memorable lockdown.
One month later, military trucks arrived. Relief food was hurled through windows into people’s houses. While the trucks rumbled through the streets, people managed to catch some fresh air. Children ran to their swings and see-saws and played under the stern watch of frightened mothers.
Like hens that survey the sky for hawks, the women’s eyes roamed the streets, looking for signs of trouble, looking for Vietnam 3 or Royale. When they raised the alarm, the kids scampered for safety, schools closed and businesses died.
But life in Section 4 was different. Cheru, Atandi and Goldo guarded section 4 as if it was a fortress. The children played as if everything was OK.
Schools and businesses in Section 4 never closed. Even the relief food that was supplied to the rest of Lavender Hill was stored in Section 4.
Do you remember Retief van Dyke, the man who was picked by a sniper bullet as he tried to pick up food portions that had been thrown at his doorstep? Yes, he came out too late, when the military trucks had already departed. Retief’s wife and children heard the groans of the dying man, but none dared to venture out to his aid. They called the emergency centre.
In no time, military trucks flooded the area. Houses were searched. Young men were brutalised. But nothing was found. They took Retief’s body with them. Now, everybody knows that Retief was a driver with Royale. But he wasn’t driving any new Royale taxis.
When the media tried to interview Retief’s widow after the tragedy, the poor woman grabbed her baby, let open the floods of tears and mourned, ‘‘They murdered him, they murdered my Retief...’’
Retief’s murder became iconic of that wanton era of atrocities.
Yet Lavender Hill was not always a gangland. Before the 1982 phantom’s stranglehold, Lavender Hill was the best place to live. It was here that the Cape of Good Hope derived its moniker.
But in 1982, apartheid lorries rumbled to Lavender Hill with masses of people expelled from District Six. Those lorries arrived in Lavender Hill with an embittered, deprived lot. Yes, Lavender Hill was once a land of tranquillity, a land of love, a land that Cheru, Atindo and Goldo dreamt of. Its restoration passed by like a breeze from the sea.
Until Fadiah, the mayor's daughter happened.