By Loushe Jordaan-Gilbert
Addicted to drugs for 16 years, Elana Louw lost not only herself but also life as she knew it. The 32-year-old found herself roaming the streets of Wynberg, homeless and without a penny to support herself or her children. Louw said her life spiralled out of control when her mom died.
“I grew up in Wynberg and had a normal upbringing until my mom died and I was left to fend for myself. Not knowing how to deal with such a great loss, I turned to drugs and became addicted to tik and mandrax and later found myself in a relationship with a no-good gangster,” she said.
Longing for a family and a sense of belonging, Louw said she distanced herself from her close family and friends and instead spent as much time surrounded by her gang friends because they accepted her for who she was without any judgement.
“It was difficult at first but then I became used to it, the more drugs I used, the easier it became. I loved being the only girl amongst the men and I had a vital role within the gang.”
“For me it was nice, I felt like I finally belonged. I was in charge of the guns and I had to make sure that all members who used guns returned them once they completed their tasks, similar to an account having to keep a record of all the finances at a business institution.”
Shying away from the recorder placed on the table next to Louw, she said she was arrested many times and spent nights in holding cells, but was one of the lucky ones who never did jail time.
“I was arrested for hijacking, possession of drugs and firearms [en ek het baie gemang] and I was caught many times, but never once did I end up in Pollsmoor or any other prison, I guess I was lucky, she said.
Louw said being a gang member is not all that fancy and not as promising as one would think. Being a gangster means your every move needs to be limited or else you could be targeted.
“To be a gangster is literally to sign your death certificate, it does not pay off at all. You have to watch your every move and constantly have to watch your back. I will never encourage anyone to be part of that kind of life, in fact that is not a life, you are basically just living,” she stated.
Now a recovering addict booked in at a rehabilitation centre in Parkwood, Louw said she had to get her life on track to better her children’s lives and provide some sort of stability.
“I was just sick of being sick and tired of being tired…that’s why I decided to change my life. As much as I’m doing this for myself, I am also doing it for my children to make sure that they don’t follow in my footsteps and to make them proud, I don’t want my children to be ashamed of me anymore. I want them to be proud of who I am and how I managed to change my life,” she stressed.