Old School legends are brought back to life in Durban’s rapper Deepak Panday’s debut novel titled the Kings of Durban, influenced by personal involvement in the underworld, Panday relinquishes a quantum leap into a world very few knew existed, UNTIL NOW!
“Before I was old enough to know about gangs, I found myself already in one. Growing up during the post-apartheid era in Durban built my character.
Going through the trials and tribulations of a rough and tough livelihood, I found myself been shot at and imprisoned thus calling for a three year long gang feud to cease became eminent.
A settlement was reached between my loggerheads and me, the day we shook hands a young revolutionist was brought to life. Unlike many other great rappers, actors and writers my story is somewhat different.” Said Panday.
For the first time in 155 years since the adoptions of Indian’s into South Africa, has the aura of the underworld come under such detailed scrutiny were the story depicted in this novel explores a legendary time period when the likes of yesteryears, greats ruled supreme.
“This life should not be spoken of let alone lived again”- Chotoo Bana
The streets of Durban Central were certainly alive in the forties and fifties. I was not there first hand, but given the opportunity, relatives and associates were ever willing to regale me with colourful stories of gangs that prowled the streets day and night.
After paying close attention to many fearless guns blazing escapades one thing remained remote about the gangsters of this era.
They did not prey on the innocent passer-by and the residents of ‘Town’ as we labelled central Durban. They had demarcated areas and protected them ferociously from rival gangs.
Territorial rights were sacred and thus were guarded with their lives. As we hear in top-notch mafia movies,
“It’s all about honour!” Unfortunately, it was just their gangster pride worshiped as honour.
Some of the cadres that ruled the streets of Durban, East Coast of South Africa were as follows: the Salot Family, which consisted primary of brothers.
The Salot’s dominated Overport and later moved their operation, which involved taxis near Kapitan’s Balcony Hotel in Durban Central.
The Dutchins laagered around Old Dutch Road and the notorious Warwick Triangle.
However, to a man, all the members of these notorious mobs quaked with fear, an equal part, respect, when the mere name of the Capo was mention, the Crimson League!
This Grey Street gang ruled with an iron fist and operated from the vicinity of Simons Café and near Victory Lounge and taxis as well as other illicit crimes fell under their cover.
There were other smaller factions but the above roll of well-dressed thugs consisted of the main players. Indians usually made up the core of each crew and there were a sprinkling of Coloured and a few token African hoods.
What was common to each gang was their leader, who was always the most feared member, and he had to maintain his reputation of being the ‘mastermind’ in holding the unholy alliance intact.
The gangs did not harass residents that lived within their domain although they had a host illicit businesses and enterprises.
The Crimson League Gang had its genesis in a vigilante group that was formed in the late forties to eradicate a prominent India based Mafia known as the Pathan Mob who was instilling terror in the lives of shopkeepers in Durban Central.
Extortion that veered out of control necessitated the businessman getting tough and so the nucleus of the League was formed.
The call to ‘Turn the streets Crimson’ with the life blood of the parasitic worms gave the League the well-earned adjective that secured their reign in Durban’s history.
Open war was declared between the Crimson League and the India based extortionists and many battles were fought because the latter refused to back down.
The League retaliated with weapons as well as intelligence, because as soon as the strong arm of the law showed an interest in the war, they protested that they were firmly on the side of justice and was actually assisting the men in blue.
After reigning victorious in a final blood drenched battle against the Indian Mafia, it should have been mission accomplished.
However, instead of disbanding, they saw an opportunity of rich pickings. After a regrouping ceremony, they established an official cabal and went on to become the crime honchos of Durban’s renowned underworld.
One very infamous incident that happened in early and middle fifty’s was when the Salots Brothers and Crimson League clashed with each other causing mayhem on the streets.
Running gun battle landed both gangs in court. In those hallowed corridors of justice gang affiliates indulged in a bit of,
“How’s your boss?’’ or maybe more appropriately,
“How’s your Capo.’’
What is noteworthy is the similarity of the evolution of Durban’s Underworld and that of the Italian Mafia.
The Mafia was formed in Sicily in feudal times to protect the estates of absentee landlords. In addition, just as the Italian’s bosses from the 19th century, The Crimson League had become a network of criminal bands that dominated the coastal side.
In speaking to much older folk who were in their teens during these gangs sovereign, one fact stands out. The Capo made provisions to protect ordinary Indian folk in the then Durban CBD against defenceless attacks from other organized gangs in the city’s underworld.
Recalling the year of 1949 Indians were subsided into a bloody riot with African counterparts and informal gangs colluded under the League in efforts to safeguard their people. In no way this justifies any nefarious activities they were involved in!
. ‘This masterpiece does not intend to lionize past gangs or to glorify their illicit livelihoods but to deny their existence would be to repudiate a very real chapter of Durban’s notorious history’ – Ravi Govender- Post Newspaper Editor and Radio Lotus FM Presenter
‘To relay the events of the past I had to thread very deep into South African history and that is just one of many aspects the reader can take away’
Driven by the synergy created by greats such Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, both Nobel peace prize winners, for the first time in South African book culture has a campaign ever been institutionalized to head the most anticipated saga of all time, The Kings of Durban.
After researching deep into past events as they occurred, Panday has been touched by the Indian contribution to the liberation movement of their adopted country to an extent that, it should be recognized as a public holiday
‘If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children’-Mahatma Gandhi
‘The prophecy that lies in the arrival of Indians in South Africa on November 16th 1860 is explored in the legacy, there is no part of our painful history that Indians hasn’t, wept, shed or gave their lives for to prove their loyalty to the cause. Besides all that has been taken or sacrificed for the sake of our young people, this day should be set aside to celebrate our unique and diverse culture.’
‘To make peace with an enemy, one must work with that enemy and that enemy must become ones partner’-Nelson Mandela
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