“I used to hijack cars but I decided to change to my life”

Siya, 23, spent more than two years in jail after being found guilty of hijacking a car with this friends in Durban. Today, he stands on a pier in Durban’s North Beach, carefully adding bait to a fishing rod and put his past firmly behind him. He told us his story.

Me and my friends, we used to steal. We used to hijack cars. We did it twice, and then the third time we got caught and we went to jail.

We hijacked the easy cars, like Polos and Golfs. They are fast, and easy to sell. We used the money to buy drinks, clothes, food for the house. The cars used to sell immediately.

I was 20 at the time. I spent two years in jail before I got out on parole.

Jail was hard and to survive there, you have to be rough. I got stabbed in jail. It was there that I actually learned to be a criminal. It is the only way to survive.

But when I came out, I knew I didn’t want to go back.

I thought I would come to town. Everything moves fast here. If I want to go to a club, I can go. I came here because I thought I could get a fresh start. No one knows me here, so I thought I could try to change. But then I started stealing again from shops and getting involved in crime.

So I came this side, to North Beach, and then I saw people fishing here. And I spoke to Uncle Waxy – one of the Indian uncles who fishes here – and he said I must stay here, and stay out of trouble, and they will teach me how to fish.

It has been three months that I’m here. The uncles looks after me. One uncle today brought coffee, and chelsea buns to eat. They always bring food to share.

I go home once a week to get some clothes. But I have a bag and I stay here on the pier, every night. People start fishing in the night till early morning. Usually I catch like two, three or four fish every day. I am not such a good fisherman yet, and the others catch more. Sometimes, they pay me to go sell some of their fish in the parking lot.

I catch blacktails, pinkies and shad. We are not supposed to catch shad because it is out of season now.

I can make up to R150 a day. Not every day. Sometimes it can be like R40, but it’s never nothing. Sometimes the weather can be really bad, but there is always something. I get the money and I buy bread, something to eat.

I had a lot of bad luck in my life. I had problems at home. My father died. You know what he died from.

My advice to other young people is that even if you have problems, finish school.

My grandmother told me not to leave school and not to join the wrong people. But I left school in grade 10.

I go visit her when I can, but not all the time, because KwaMashu is not safe for me.

Money is a problem. If you get too used to it as a young person, it becomes a problem. See, I left school and then I started getting money, and then I wanted more. That’s where the trouble starts.

I’m trying to change my luck. This is why I came here. I made mistakes. But I will be all right.