'This place saved me'

2017-03-26 06:01
Recovering drug addict and former Gang leader Lee Adams. Picture: Leon Sadiki City Press

Recovering drug addict and former Gang leader Lee Adams. Picture: Leon Sadiki City Press

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High on drugs, he committed his first murder at the age of 14 to prove his bravery in an initiation ritual to become a member of the Ugly Americans gang.

Eighteen years later, 17 murders to his name and a few years in prison, Lee Adams, 32, is a wanted man back home in Cape Town – but in Eldorado Park, he has found refuge.

Adams said despite its crime and drug abuse, Eldorado Park has offered him a second chance in life.

He arrived in Johannesburg two years ago fleeing from other gang members seeking revenge for the deaths of their friends and family members.

This week he stood among drug addicts in Extension 1, Eldorado Park, listening to them sharing their stories of despair.

For a recovering addict who has recently been to rehab and who took his last hit in November last year, Adams could only shake his head. He did not agree with the young men that they could not run from drugs and crime.

“I was deeply involved in gangsterism. I sold drugs and was paid to kill people and now I’m a recovering drug user. If I could change, then anyone can do it,” he told them.

“I found hope right here in Eldos where everyone is thinking there is no hope at all. Back in Cape Town I was one of the most feared in the community and respected in gangster circles, and I could have continued with that life here in Joburg, but I chose not to.

“I still live among drug users and criminals, but I still choose not to get involved.”

On the Cape Flats, Adams said he belonged to the Ugly Americans. The letters UA remain tattooed on his wrist. The gang’s insignia – a mark of his rank as captain – remains tattooed on his shoulders.

His left arm is covered in tattoos earned through spilling blood.

“They are 17 [stars] and I earned each of them after killing someone. I have killed people, but have only been to prison for attempted murder because when you are connected in the police service, everything disappears,” he said. There is a large star on his arm with a smaller one inside it. “This was a father and son. I shot both of them dead,” he said.

“I am not proud of all that ... I can never be proud of taking lives and terrorising my own community. I have attended funerals of at least seven of my closest friends who died in the streets while others are serving life sentences for murders, but here I am outside and I have Eldorado Park to thank for saving me.

“Eldos is battling drug abuse that leads to crime and I believe with the right attitude and commitment from the police, this can all be curbed before it gets totally out of hand. There is hope everywhere ... I found hope in the midst of despair, right here in Eldos.”

Read more on:    johannesburg  |  crime

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