This story is part of a series focusing on former gang members who changed their lives for the better.
By Loushe Jordaan Gilbert
Clinically declared dead at the age of 20, ex-gang leader Brandon Adonis* said he had a second chance at life when medical practitioners at Groote Schuur hospital worked around the clock to save his life.
“I was rushed to Groote Schuur hospital and in hospital, I was declared clinically dead. Everyone basically gave up hope. The doctors told my mom she should not keep her hopes up. They managed to resuscitate me hours later and when I got my second chance at life,” he said.
Growing up on the Cape Flats, Adonis said he was born into a family of gangsters and drugs dealers.
“I was born into a family that was part of a gang and drug structure. My mom was a drug dealer and my grandmother also had her own drug trade. I remember visiting her and she would wear the check overall and in the one pocket she would have a stash of cash and in the other pocket, she would have drugs. Many times we were also instructed to serve customers at the door,” he shared
At the age of 13, Adonis* said he lost his role model and searched for a fatherly figure on the streets.
“ My father was my role model, the only person I have ever looked up too, but he passed when I was in primary school and I lost all sense of direction.”
I found myself searching for a role model amongst my community and the only people that had the life I envisioned for myself, the money, the house and cars, were the gangsters and as a lost teen I aspired to be like them.”
“I got involved with the gang and even though I had to do many bad and inhumane things, I did it simply because I received that affirmation I so desperately yearned,” he stressed.
Adonis* said at the age of 18 he was one of the most successful drug dealers and a well-respected gangster on the Cape Flats.
Living his best life, feeling untouchable and in control, Adonis* said he had a near-death experience after being shot by his younger brother who was instructed to kill a gang leader as part of his initiation into a gang.
“I had a younger brother, who I never thought would follow my footsteps but he did and he ended up getting involved with a rival gang. With any gang, you have to go through the initiation process before you are actually seen as a member and part of his initiation was to kill a high profile gangster, but he didn’t know it was going to be me, he only found out two weeks prior to me being shot.”
“I remember that day so clearly, it was as if it happened yesterday. I was at my mom’s place and I was sitting on the stoep when a vehicle pulled up and three men got out, one of them being my brother.”
“I walked over to them and my gut told me that this could only be trouble but I could not show any fear. I knew I was going to be shot but never in my wildest dreams did I think my brother would be the one pulling the trigger,” he said
Adonis* said revenge was the only thing on his mind after he recovered, but for some reason he could not himself to pull the trigger.
“I started planning his murder, filled with rage and anger and a deep thirst for revenge, but the day I got the opportunity to kill him, I could not pull that trigger. That day I gave my brother the talk someone should have given to me. I told him that if he does not leave this gang, he would be killed and I walked away not seeing him again,” he said.
For eight years after he was shot, Adonis* said he managed to walk away from a life of crime, changed his identity and moved from his hometown, but the news of his brother’s death nearly cost him his reformed life.
“My sisters called me with the news of his passing. A few years prior to his death we were on good terms and I struggled to accept that he was killed. I drove to our Woodstock home and on my way I called some of my ex-gang rookies instructing them that I need back up as I was planning to kill those responsible for the death of my brother, but then out of nowhere this voice told me that if I continue my quest for revenge, I would die that day and never see my kids again. I knew I had to forget about his killers and move on with my life, as difficult as it was. That was probably the day I was reborn,” Adonis* stated.
At the age of 47, Adonis* said he got involved with a foundation called the Leon Jacobs Foundation which helps young and old individuals within the Western Cape stay clear of gangsterism within various communities.
The foundation hosts various programs at schools to educate the younger generation about the consequences gangsterism has on their lives. The foundation also provides a platform for ex-convicts and gangsters to share their stories and how they managed to escape a life of crime.