It’s against the will of my Uber driver that I land at Eyadini on the weekend that Umlazi is supposedly under siege from the Chillies factor. Five days ago some members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) shot and killed a notorious gangster Sandile “Chillies” Bhengu. His friends were threatening to release Lucifer. I must see him. To tell you how he looks like.
My Uber driver, who picks me up at the pristine Umhlanga Ridge, is not convinced. An apparent wimp of sort, he cowers visibly soon after discovering my destination. And he goes: Mmmmhhh are you sure you want to go there, in parlance that only a Zulu speak can master.
What’s wrong with my destination, I ask.
Today is not a good day, he says. And he adds: Umlazi is in any case not a place for you, good sir. Kuzofa’bantu! (People will die today).
I tell him: Let me see them people die and tell the story.
The young Uber driver, in his late 20s I think, looks at me as if to say, you’re crazy. I see it in his eyes. He wants to order me out of his cab and turn back. But I’m not flinching. I’m paying this R250.00.
Truth be told, my friends had also warned me about the Chillies factor on hearing that I was headed to Eyadini on this day. But then I know people to be vulnerable to over-sensationalised news. I’m not as gullible.
But I was shaken a bit as we come to meet a heavily armed police road block at the entrance of Umlazi through the Griffiths Mxenge Highway. It’s a sobering welcome.
My uber driver looks at me as if to say, I told you so.
I order him to proceed with mine stern look. And so, we come to meet another police contingent drowned inside multitudes of bystanders at the corner of Sibusiso Mdakane and Thubelihle Khumalo drives, which is about one kilometre away from my destination.
Chillies people were here spinning cars and shooting god. The crowds came out to watch the Chillies spectre. The police came to put a stop to it.
Damn! I missed it by seconds. I needed to see this madness. It started the previous day, during the night vigil on Friday. Chillies’ people were paying tribute. They are reported to have stolen a couple of cars to perform daring spins in these narrow streets of Umlazi and were on some 21 gun salute mode. They then burn the cars, as sacrifice of sort, once they are done.
My Uber driver’s look says let’s go back. But I wouldn’t be deterred. I want to see for myself the face of this Lucifer.
It’s the journalist in me I guess. After all I come from the East Rand, in Kwa-Thema. There is nothing of a surprise that Umlazi can pose, even on this fateful day. I stayed three houses away from Potso, he of the Moya gang. We neutralised Inkatha’s attempt to cause havoc in a matter of days. That’s how I fooled myself to visit Eyadini on the 9th of September 2017.
We get to Eyadini to the relief of my Uber driver. He leaves me with another caution as he drops me at the Eyadini entrance around 4pm. “Ensure to leave early sir. These streets are not safe, I tell you,” he says.
I nod half-heartedly as I prepare for the famous Eyadini cat walk which led me into a fantastic all night kasie style groove.
But my first impressions were not good, I must say. Updating my main WhatApp group I observed that: “Nothing to write home about. Just another Chesa Nyama.”
And my post was met by an unflattering comment from a fellow WhatsApp group member: “And they prepare their meet next to the toilet.”
Thing is, I’ve seen better Chesa Nyama versions across the country. Perhaps it’s unfair to compare Eyadini to the restaurants in and around the Vilakazi precinct in Soweto. But they all belong into the same category of township tourist attractions. They must be held to the same high standard.
And Bahama’s in Kwa-Thema, Ekurhuleni, is streets ahead in terms of projecting itself as a decent kasie style entertainment rendezvous. It projects an impression that someone took time out to think about creating a particular ambience.
I got the impression that the Eyadini people woke up one day and erected a shade with corrugated iron. But then someone will argue that that’s an authentic township look. I disagree. Township should not equal mediocre.
Anyways, the place works in its current form. Every third person you speak to is from outside KwaZulu-Natal which tells you that Eyadini people have done a good nation-wide marketing job.
The manner in which hordes of beauties stream in remarkable as the evening progresses is something worth watching. The spectacular cat walks are for the camera guy who snaps at the grand entrance and posts on social media. They even have a drone that captures the majestic movements from above. On this day, a group of about 30 bikers made a grand entrance.
The music is out of this world reflecting a well-balanced and powerful sound system and highly learned DJs.
The people are remarkably jolly in a mood often blessed by slick dancers. The absent Zodwa waBantu was not missed. Many were showing off in thigh high slits and net transparent dresses.
But service levels can be much better. It should not take more than one hour of pushing shoving and screaming on the bar counter to purchase a beer. One that is priced at R30.00 nogal. But gulping it, we did. Fun, we had. And the Chillies factor was not really felt.
Here’s to not being a wimp!