Gangster’s fast life, hard death

Chiara Carter and Marianne Merten

A legend who lived a fast life and died a hard death is the inevitable epitaph for slain Cape Town gang leader Jackie Lonte.

Lonte – born Neville Heroldt -scripted his life like a B-grade gangster movie and mythologised himself in a city where his gang, the Americans, has resonance in the fashion, graffiti and ghetto poses of everyday Cape Flats life.

His death in a hail of bullets outside his Athlone home on Wednesday merely hastened his end because Lonte, who recently announced his retirement from crime and was thinking of penning his autobiography, was dying of cancer.

While Lonte’s family and friends mourned, detectives recovered several spent R-5 rifle cartridges and a 9mm pistol cartridge.

According to a police source, the weapons were government issue – either police or army – the same type as the guns used to kill another top Cape gang leader, Ismail April, alias Bobby Mongrel, last week.

Detectives are investigating whether they are firearms recently stolen from the Faure base of the public order policing unit.

Lonte’s death sent shock waves through a city accustomed to violent crime and the deaths of once invincible gangsters at the hands of faceless killers in murders termed “drive-by shootings”.

April led the Mongrels – a name which points to the feral side of Cape Town’s endemic gang culture. Lonte cultivated a different face – that of cheap glamour spelt out in fast cars, beautiful women and the biggest cocaine habit in town.

Lonte sported connections – with the middle- class “boyz from the hood” who went on to become community activists and police officers, as well as working-class kids, many of whom became his underlings. But violence was never far from the surface.

He has been given the dubious credit of introducing cocaine and its highly addictive derivative, crack, to the Cape market. His rap sheet includes charges of murder, attempted murder, drug trafficking and assault.

He was arrested for killing Woodstock resident Desiree Kitchings almost two years ago. Despite public speculation that the killing was a “crime of passion”, the charge sheet says it was motivated by a dispute over drug money owed to Lonte.

During a bail application, the state claimed Lonte killed fellow gangster and Civil Co-operation Bureau informant “Peaches” Gordon after Gordon wanted to tell all. However, Lonte insisted Gordon was killed in a drug war between the Americans and the Dixie Boys.

Lonte initially kept out of the crime cartel, The Firm, but like other gang leaders, he eventually became a target for the anti-drug group, People against Gangsterism and Drugs (Pagad).

According to relatives, Lonte had received several threats, and the night before his death, Pagad members were spotted outside his home.

According to a witness, a white Golf pulled up outside Lonte’s home on Wednesday. Two men climbed out, swore at Lonte and then opened fire.

Lonte tried to escape but died on the pavement outside his home.

His brother, Edmund “Ougat” Heroldt, was killed in a drive-by shooting earlier this year.

Lonte’s death is the latest in a string of high-profile gangsters murdered. April was shot at point-blank range in his Grassy Park home.

Other gang kingpins, notably Hard Livings boss Rashied Staggie and head of The Firm, Colin Stansfield, have moved from Cape Town.

The gangster who heads the feared 28s gang and represents The Firm in the township of Belhar, Ernie “Lapepa” Peters, is under heavy police guard in hospital recovering from injuries after he was shot and paralysed in a drive-by shooting near his home.

What seems to be open season on gangsters began in January when Hard Livings hit man Moeneeb “Bowtie” Abrahams was killed in a drive-by shooting in Manenberg.

In March, Katy-Ann Aarendse from The Firm was killed along with her husband, Faried Davids, in their car outside a relative’s home in Heideveld.

Over Easter, the Hard Livings second-in- command, Leonard “Chippie” Archilles, was gunned down in his car in Woodstock. Days later another top Hard Livings gangster, Ivan Oliver, was shot in his car. No one has been arrested for these murders.

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