This Guy Went From A 28 Gang General To Starring Alongside Hollywood Royalty [Video] — Nigeria Today
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This Guy Went From A 28 Gang General To Starring Alongside Hollywood Royalty [Video]

If you want to understand the Numbers gangs in South Africa, you should start by reading Jonny Steinberg’s ‘The Number’.

One man who doesn’t have to bother with that is Welcome Witbooi, who rose through the ranks to become the highest ranking General in the 28s.

At his peak he commanded an army of more than 2 500 men, and raked in more than R500 000 a month for the gang’s business empire, all whilst housed within Pollsmoor Prison’s walls.

During his time behind bars he became a First Star General in the 28s, but eventually he decided he wanted out. As the Daily Maverick realised during their interview with Welcome, that was no easy task:

“I was told that there was one way in, and one way out of the Number. Through blood. So if I wanted to leave I would have to die. So there was a constant fear of leaving. But the deeper I got the more I understood that when moving up to the highest rank, there was a way out..

“I had to go to the head of the prison and get four generals transported from four different prisons to decide if I could leave. Two generals stood in front of me, and two stood behind me. I stood in the centre, completely naked, and gave my reasons for leaving. If I could leave they would tell me so I hear it. If not, I would feel it, because the two generals behind me would stab and kill me.

“In the end, it was my education and the things I did outside of prison that saved me. I helped one of the generals to read and write, and another with a relationship. It was this that actually saved my life.”

I imagine that not all stories like this have a happy ending, but in the case of Welcome things have gone rather well since then. He will now star alongside Oscar Best Actor winner Forest Whitaker and Eric Bana in The Forgiven, a movie based on Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Welcome plays the right-hand man of the main gang leader. Here’s that trailer, dubious accents and all:

The Forgiven isn’t his first foray into film, because Welcome was also involved with Four Corners. He worked with the producers of the film, which was selected as South Africa’s entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards in 2013.

I guess it was pretty close to home, as the movie is a crime-thriller set in the Cape ganglands. It follows a young chess prodigy who must overcome unbelievable odds, while always staying one step ahead of the gangs.

Welcome and the producers worked together to ensure the Numbers gangs were accurately represented, and real-life inmates and gang members were featured.

The film is currently showing on Showmax, and here’s a trailer to whet your appetite:


If you have DStv then signing up for Showmax is FREE, and if you don’t the simple process costs R99 per month, and can be cancelled at any time without penalty.

Welcome is also set to release his autobiography later this year, under the title ‘Finally Welcome’. He hopes that by educating people about the Number, he can help them make better life choices.

We will finish with this short summary of each Number, and what their role entails:

Crunching the Number

The Number was formed well over a century ago to protect mineworkers from police brutality in the late 1800s. The laws of The Number constantly evolve and over time it’s become more organised and structured like a business. These are the main roles:

26s The Sales Force

All about money and maintaining cash flow in the prison, through prostitution, drugs and other illicit items.

27s The Legal Department

The enforcers of the law within the number. If a member transgresses the laws, the 27s will carry out the judgement.

28s Business Development

The dominant number within the gangs. They oversee the operations within the prison and ensure the steady supply of drugs and monitor cash flow and gang relations. The 28s form the leadership within Number.

Like a finely tuned machine, right?


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