‘Only I can take on drug lords and mafias’: Former gang boss Gayton McKenzie

20 May 2024 - 09:55
PA leader Gayton McKenzie says he is the only politician who can take on mafia syndicates. File photo.
Image: Eugene Coetzee/The Herald PA leader Gayton McKenzie says he is the only politician who can take on mafia syndicates. File photo.

As a former gang boss, Patriotic Alliance (PA) leader Gayton McKenzie believes he is the only politician who can curb the growing crime rate and destroy “mafias”.

“I look at President Cyril Ramaphosa, [EFF leader] Julius Malema and [DA leader] John Steenhuisen and I do not see anybody capable of taking on the drug, oil and coal mafias. I am the only guy who can take them on because I understand the modus operandi. I will destroy them,” McKenzie said when speaking last week about why voters should consider his party in the May 29 elections.

McKenzie said because of his history with crime, having been involved in his first bank robbery at age 16, he had better insight into criminal syndicates than other politicians.

During his time at Grootvlei Prison in Bloemfontein, serving a 17-year sentence for armed robberies, McKenzie was a leader of the 26 gang.

“Crime for me was a career choice from a young age. My neighbour was a bank robber. When I was eight, I already knew I was not going to be like my dad, but I would grow up to be like my neighbour. That is when I started washing the cars of gangsters and spending time with them,” he said, recounting his childhood in Heidedal. 

Three months before his 16th birthday McKenzie was involved in his first bank robbery as the driver of a getaway car.

After time with gangsters who groomed him, he started his own gang.

“I left them to do bank robberies with my gang because they were giving me small amounts. That is when they arrested us. One day we went to rob a casino but when we came out with the money, one guy who was with me, his girlfriend’s brother saw us and reported us to the police,” McKenzie said in a previous interview.

He said he believes he was supposed to be sentenced to life in prison but the judge showed him mercy.

“I had a lot of charges but the judge told me there was something in me and that I still change my life,” he said.

From the age of 10, McKenzie wanted to kill.

“I never killed anyone during the robberies. We were fortunate because from age 10, I wanted to kill. We coloured boys, when we grew up they used to ask 'have you made your bones'? If you have not killed someone you have not made your bones. I remember wanting to kill because of that. Someone stole my jacket. I found him and I shot him 10 times but he did not die. The life of gangsterism, I hate it. You grow up believing in wrong things, such as killing people. Nothing has changed until today. Government doesn't know how to deal with it.”

McKenzie’s reputation of being a cold-hearted gang leader changed when he met a young rape victim in Grootvlei Prison.

“One of the rules in jail is that you do not interfere with the work of another gang in jail. There was this white boy who was raped in jail. They raped him for 18 hours. There was blood on the floor, and I did nothing. Nobody helped him. The next day I went to the bathroom, and he was lying in the corridor in his blood, shivering. I told him he needed to go to the police.

“That was the first time I did something my mother and father would have been proud of. At grave risk to my life, I picked up that boy and took him to the wardens. I told them he was raped but they told me there was no proof.”

This sparked activism in McKenzie. He and other inmates made a video exposing rapes and corruption in jail.

“When we came out of prison, the 28 gang and everybody wanted us dead.”

When McKenzie was released after the expose, he ventured into business and politics.