IT’S A FAMILY AFFAIR

Everson Luhanga

The story of Alexandra’s most notorious crime family

There was ZB, then Njilo and his brother Mbeko and then there was Balloon-Tyre.

The men were all from one family and they were among the most notorious criminals in Alexandra.

Balloon-Tyre’s birth name was Sthembiso Dominic Thinto.

He was the second born in his family. When his mother was pregnant his elder brother used to ask her why her stomach was ballooning.

That is how he got the name new.

Balloon was Njilo’s cousin and ZB’s nephew.

He said the trio was a dangerous pack when they went out to “work” together.

Balloon’s mom, Linah Thinto, is the sister of Nonzuzo Thinto, Njilo’s mother.

She has known the most dangerous criminals in Alexandra. Some of them, she says, were her family members and her own children!

  • “My two brothers were criminals.
  • “My two sons were criminals
  • “My sister’s two sons (Njilo and his brother Mbeko) were criminals
  • The son of a third sister was a criminal

“Both my sister and I were once involved in criminal activities

  • “I was arrested for selling zol to a police officer (unknowingly) while I was in primary school
  • “I was also arrested for theft at work as a domestic worker
  • “My sister was once arrested too

Just like his other family members, Balloon cannot remember how many times he has been arrested for doing crime. But he was sent to prison for 15 years.

Balloon said he committed his first crime when he was 11. “My first arrest was when I was 11 years old for shoplifting in Sandton with my other cousin who is dead now. He was shot and killed by the police during a robbery in Alexandra.”

Balloon said he grew up seeing his uncles and big brothers doing crime.

They would come home with:

  • A lot of money
  • Fancy cars
  • Expensive clothes
  • Beautiful and well-dressed girls
  • Expensive alcohol

“We thought that was the good life and we wanted to follow in their footsteps.”

Balloon said he got his first gun at the age of 13 years. “I got that gun after we fought a rival gang group while playing dice.

“The gang leader was killed and I disarmed him. We used the same gun to get other guns for everyone in the group.”

In 2009, when he was 17, Balloon was arrested for a robbery.

“Njilo, myself and a third friend robbed a businessman but we were spotted by the community.

“They recognized me and they gave chase.

“Njilo and a friend escaped unharmed but I was caught and badly beaten up.

“Cops rescued me from an angry mob and I was arrested.”

He said the court case dragged on for two years and he was sentenced to 15 years in jail. “My life was a mess.”

His mother said of her seven children two became criminals.

“Balloon and his elder brother became criminals at a young age.  They started bringing home some money and other things they stole.

“When asked they would lie and say they were out working as handymen and they were paid.”

But she found out when Balloon and his other cousin (from another sister, not Njilo’s mom) got arrested in Sandton for shoplifting.

“I used to receive calls from the police and the community about my sons being involved in criminal activities.

“Sad as it was, I always wanted them to be the best sons hence I used to go to the police to try to get them out of police cells.”