DRUNKEN CROWD: A friend of alleged gangster Thato Mokoka shows off in his grave just before the coffin, containing alcohol and marijuana, was lowered into the earth. Picture: FATI MOALUSI
It was a very unusual funeral for a 16 year old.
When the body of Thato Mokoka was lowered into the ground, so were bottles of alcohol and bags of marijuana. These were his farewell gifts from mourning friends and relatives.
Tyres were set alight on the street, cars spun in circles and tyres screeched at Roodeport Cemetery yesterday – a common ritual at many gangster funerals.
Many of the girls danced the Hlokoloza as the coffin was led to the hearse. Nearby tombstones were vandalised by the youth, despite the priest’s call to “respect the dead”.
The funeral recalled similar scenes to those of gangsters in the 1990s, where cars were burned outside the cemetery and gunshots fired into the air as the dearly departed was lowered to his or her final resting place.
In the case of Mokoka, who was shot dead during a police raid last Tuesday at his home in Dobsonville, Soweto, his funeral resembled the kind in which notorious thugs are celebrated in death in many neighbourhood funerals across South Africa.
The teenager was accused of being in possession of a gun at the time.
Gangster-like rituals, including the sprinkling of alcohol in the grave, the playing of “amadice” outside the church service and young girls strutting around in mini skirts, were a common sight at his funeral.
According to locals, Mokoka was involved in a stabbing incident that involved other pupils from Kgatelopele High School, just hours before his death.
Mokoka was in Grade 10 at rival school Kelokitso Comprehensive School.
His mother, Sybil Mokoka, was comforted by family and neighbours.
Motorists who passed near the Mokoka home were intimidated by the drunken crowd and forced to turn their cars around.
Back in the marquee, the priest was shocked at the lack of respect by the youngsters, who changed the lyrics of church hymns.
Mokoka’s cousin, Thulaganyo Dikobe, denied that Thato was a gangster, describing him as a “very vibrant, gentle and popular young person” and “more of a ladies’ man than a thug”.
Police cars were chased away from the funeral by the youths, who said they would “avenge Thato’s death”.
A youth leader known only as “Tjovitjo” said the youth of Dobsonville would “make sure that no youngster dies by police weapons again”.
“Even if he was a gangster, that is still no reason to take his life. If he was a bad child there are rehabilitation centres for that,” Dikobe said.
Mokoka’s friends described him as “a party animal and junkie”.
At the grave site, a group of youngsters who took charge of the service sprinkled bags of vodka-soaked dagga into the grave, saying: “Weed to weed. Beer to beer.”
One mourner, who poured vodka into the grave, said: “You had expensive taste, my friend.”
The police officer who was arrested in connection with Mokoka’s death is due to appear in the Roodepoort Magistrate’s Court today.