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The origins of the Three Million Gang

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Tebello Jacob ‘Blackie’ Tumisi, a political activist in Maokeng Township argues that vigilante groups and gansterism in the area did not start with the existence of the Three Million. He recalls the following about gangsterism in the area:

Gangsterism in Kroonstad started a long time ago. In the 1960s we had a gang called the Green-White. It was a group of youngsters who used to play softball but later turned out to be gangsters who fought against the police on the issue of permits. Their leader was the late Bra Tsikoe Sisana. They used to fight the police but were later all arrested. Some were sentenced to three years’ imprisonment.9

According to Tshepo Moloi of the History Workshop at the University of the Witwatersrand, the ‘original’ Three Million was formed by young people living in Seeisoville (one of Maokeng’s Townships) in Kroonstad. They liked the song ‘I’ve been robbed by a group called Three Million. People in the area started calling them ama-Three Million(The Three Million). It started as a group of young people who liked wearing fashionable clothes and were known for their dancing antics.10 During this period there was another group in Seeisoville which was called the Canadians. Therefore, there was fierce contestation for dominance of the area by these two groups. Another group known as the Ditsekelekwas was formed in the area. The latter was a community defence structure comprising young people under the age of 20. Samuel Mpho ‘Berbeto’ Taka, one of the gang members indicated the following about the emergence of this group and its activities:

When the Three Million started, I was still a member of SAYCO in Maokeng. I joined it with a certain guy with the name of Tsietsi Thipe from Zenzele in the 16th Section. In fact, we had two ANC offices in the area, namely, the Maokeng Democratic Crisis Committee (MDCC) and the Activists Forum (AF). Initially, Diwiti and his sister Mamorena were members of the ANC. Diwiti later was against the members of the ANCYL because of Daniel George who was alleged to have had an affair with Diwiti’s wife}11

Of all the groups mentioned above, the Three Million was the most popular one, perhaps due to the fact that its origin could be traced back to the ANCYL. Another reason could have been the resistance which the group experienced from ANC-aligned structures in Maokeng Township. The gang’s leader was George ‘Diwiti’ Ramasimong who, due to his operations within the group, became a fearless and notorious gang leader. Dikeledi Mary-Jane Tlali adds:

Diwiti was a comrade. So, he went with other comrades to attend a funeral and they happened to clash during that time. When they came back, they separated and the Three Million Gang was formed and recruited new members. Later, there was a clash between the community and the Three Million Gang … I joined COSAS when I was at the Reginald Cingo High School in 1990 doing Standard 9. Then the fight with the Three Million Gang started. They were nearer to Reginald Cingo. Then I became disturbed, and would bunk school, and would sometimes not sleep at home because I was running away from the police. On the other side, the Three Million were hunting for me. On realising that I was no longer safe, I ended up dropping out of school when I was doing Standard 9.12

It was argued that the formation of the Three Million was precipitated by the disagreements between Diwiti and one of the ANCYL leaders, Daniel George. When the misunderstanding intensified between these two leaders, their supporters also joined in the fray and the Maokeng Township was divided between the Diwiti group, which later became known as the Three Million, and the George sympathisers. It was reported that differences between these two groups led to physical attacks and killings.13 Tumisi recounts:

In June 1990 one boy known as Five came to me and said Diwiti was busy organising them in order to fight against the comrades in the area. He told me that he had indicated to Diwiti that fighting the comrades was tantamount to fighting the whole community. In fact Diwiti was a thug here in the township who wanted political power; thus, he formed a gang which was against the progressive ANCYL. It was interesting to note that Diwiti was initially a member of the ANCYL. I think he was sent to be within the ANCYL by the police in order to infiltrate the organisation. I remember when a policeman called Ndweni was killed by the ANCYL members, Diwiti was also there. Surprisingly, only Makhanda and Oggies were arrested and charged with the killing of a police official. Diwiti was not arrested. That was when we realised that Diwiti was conniving with the police.14

On the formation of the Three Million Gang, Tumisi further recalls:

The existence of the Three Million Gang in Maokeng divided the township into two groups. To be honest, the elderly people in the township welcomed the existence of this gang because it was seen as an alternative to the misuse of power by the ANC-aligned structures in the area. It took some time and with interventions from us to convince some of them about the activities of this group. They were made aware that the group was a vigilante group and that the ANC structures were there to protect them. Therefore, it became our responsibility to protect the communities. In our mission to do so, there were some victims from both sides… In fact, the misunderstanding was caused by Diwiti Ramasimong and Daniel George who clashed over a girlfriend (Alice) and their supporters joined forces against each other. I remember that in September 1990, Diwiti came to my place with a group and demanded to know the whereabouts of George from me. Diwiti said he was told by Simon Mofokeng that the previous day I was driving around with George and his (Diwiti’s) wife. This Simon Mofokeng was a policeman. These youngsters who accompanied Diwiti did not question the involvement of a policeman in this matter. It became clear to me that Diwiti was working with the police.15

Like many other gangs or groups operating as vigilante ones in other parts of the country, initially the formation of the Three Million was more of an attempt to dominate Maokeng Township ahead of the ANC-aligned structures. However, this situation created problems in the township. What started as a misunderstanding between Diwiti and George led to the division of the township residents into two faction groups.

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