Riding as a Yibha is ayoba
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.