Rid­ing as a Yibha is ay­oba

CityPress - - News - THEMBALETHU MT­SHALI news@city­press.co.za

Formed in the early 2000s, the amaYibha group – as they fondly re­fer to them­selves – com­prise young and older male train pas­sen­gers, aged be­tween 16 and 50, who have an in­flu­ence over your en­joy­ment or dread of rid­ing Metro­rail trains in Gaut­eng.

These no­to­ri­ous men em­brace a cul­ture of drug and al­co­hol abuse in early morn­ing and af­ter­noon rush hour Metro­rail trains. They oc­cupy the first car­riage of ev­ery morn­ing and evening train that trav­els from Ger­mis­ton to Katle­hong or vice versa.

Although City Press wit­nessed sim­i­lar be­hav­iour in other trains around Jo­han­nes­burg, noth­ing was quite like amaYibha group.

The unity and ca­ma­raderie among them is unique, and they sub­scribe to the slo­gan “Abatheshi aba kgob­ayo”, a slang term for hus­tling workers.

Their car­riage is eas­ily iden­ti­fied by the stench and clouds of mar­i­juana – some­times laced with stim­u­lant drugs – as well as to­bacco that es­cape through win­dows and doors.

Al­co­hol bot­tles are im­promptu in­stru­ments of earpierc­ing rev­o­lu­tion­ary songs that are sung in the car­riage.

Although they are not gang­sters, the men have adopted the “7” fin­ger sign pop­u­larised by kwaito star Bonginkosi “Zola” Dlamini. No one knows how many mem­bers be­long to the group, and no one is a leader or an or­gan­iser.

There is no ini­ti­a­tion process, but your readi­ness to share booze, cig­a­rettes or a dagga joint can earn you an in­for­mal membership.

Thu­lani Mahlangu, who has been with “the brother­hood” since 2009 af­ter find­ing his first job in Ger­mis­ton, says being a Yibha means liv­ing one’s life in a care­free man­ner, al­most like a thug.

“It was in­spired by the late US hip-hop artist, Tu­pac Shakur,” says Mahlangu, main­tain­ing that the cul­ture in their group dif­fers from that es­poused by gang­sters in that it ex­cludes vi­o­lence.

“To be a Yibha you have to be pure-hearted and do good at all times,” he adds.

“We treat oth­ers like we would treat our sib­lings – with love, care and re­spect. We share smokes and drinks, talk about life and sup­port each other in ev­ery way we can, even fi­nan­cially.

“To­gether, we feel a strong sense of be­long­ing,” he says, ad­ding that while the found­ing mem­bers no longer use trains, their le­gacy has sur­vived and con­tin­ues to thrive. The phi­los­o­phy of the group is that “no van­dal­ism, pick-pock­et­ing, train­surf­ing, racial dis­crim­i­na­tion and in­tim­i­da­tion” are tol­er­ated in the car­riage.

“In a sense, you are safer in here than any­where else in the train,” adds an­other Yibha mem­ber.

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