Don Buthelezi from Gomora, who died this week, will be remembered for his economical conscience rather than his inspired belief in the thug mantra of living by the gun and dying the gun.
Famed for dispatching his foes to "small heaven", the "Don", the "godfather of Gomora", Mr "operation teka hinkwaswo", "rough and tumble", aka "skop en donner", "first stop to heaven", has exited the theatre of the living with a blast from the hand of Mzozozo, his baby mama, medi and first love.
Portrayed by Israel Matseke-Zulu, Don returned to the squalor of Gomora purportedly seeking a relationship with Teddy, his son who he abandoned as a toddler. Meek and apologetic, Don maintained a street edge with a face that bore the scars of a life spent colouring outside the lines of the law.
He had many tales to tell from a storied life, which slowly ingratiated him to the people he sought favour from. While many knew he was lying, he could keep them glued to his words through various mechanisms like thorough linguistic heft, sternness and impassioned facial expressions. It was only a matter of time before Mzozozo, Teddy, his daughter Sibongile, and society at large took him back in.
He was preaching the gospel of change and was set on recalibrating his relationship with the Teddy bear. Explaining his long absence, this mashayashaya offered this explanation to his son:
"Ntwana bengise mjiba, binnekant Gauteng maboneng, ngimatasatasa phansi phezulu ngihlanganisa, into zami, imokolo zam. Mangithi ‘pha pha’, ngi cheka the registration number according to the chronometer, ngithola ukuthi amaJapan angishayile."
He played this role to perfection and even remained on the right side of the law for a while. When things were slow, he would sit in Mzozozo's shack and wallow in self-pity like a child. But once inumber inumber was formulated he would spring into action and feed his family with the proceeds.
But life is no Robin Hood. His other side caught up with his family life and he had to revert to grit and violence to ascend the throne and establish his criminal enterprise for the sake of his family.
Don Buthelezi is a tragic character who was more than met the eye. A personage who meant well, but life had shown him flames. He was also soft and funny, a ghetto sage who understood how the world worked. He existed in an environment where he played every card he was dealt.
In another time, another life he would have had a flourishing, self-assured life. When survival is your perpetual option, being a snaai is not an option. There is no dignity in being a snaai in this rough and tumble world.
He also carried the world on his shoulders and sought retribution from Principal Melusi Dlamini or 'Marvellous Maverick', whom he believes betrayed him back in the day. This was before Melusi rocked the tight-fitting suits and stiff upper lip.
The principal, his one-time friend is the epitome of the man Don wanted to become. A husband and father with a steady nine-to-five. It was not to be for the Don, and despite many attempts to return to the right side of life, his survival toolkit only comprised of violence and rage.
Sure, he wanted to kill Melusi's son, but there is a code. And once you abandon that code, life ceases to make sense, for it is all you know. His was a life of survival at any cost necessary. And he used anyone to that end. His ascension to the top of the Gomora underworld was coincidental in his quest for survival. Others believe that he had a grand plan – but he was no mastermind. He was a day-to-day type of nigga.
Ja, his run has come to an end and he sleeps with the fishes. He tried his utmost to remain above water but ultimately that was not enough. Don Buthelezi leaves behind his son Teddy, and his daughter, Sibongile.
Life was never easy for you grootman. Hamba kahle sosha!