Dance For Life
Mansoer Theron, 17, is the son of a notorious Cape Town gangster. But despite many expecting him to take the dark road into the gang culture he rose as a beacon of light in a troubled community. He tells us how he overcame the negativity through courage and dance.
Mansoer from Lotus River, was born premature to a 18-year-old mother and a father who was in jail for murder. Rising against the odds before he could walk and talk, Mansoer at 6-months contracted double-pneumonia, he says that he spent the following four years in and out of hospital.
“I hardly remember those years, but I can still recall that my mom never visited and only my grandmother would spent time with me.”
Mansoer has lived all his life in his grandparents house and his grandmother has become his main caregiver.
The first time Mansoer (12) met his father was a weird day as he calls it.
“I was at school and the principal called me to the office, I was excited because I thought I would be at school half day, but when I got home everything changed.”
“My mom just told me, this is your father and you must spend time with him. I was shocked, I had seen him in the area, and some people had told me that he was my father. But I felt nothing when I met him. All I knew about him was that he was dangerous.”
“I guess neither of us was interested in knowing each other. We never visited and the few times we saw each other was passing by on the street.”
A year followed and Mansoer recalls the moment that he knew he would write off his father forever.
“I was at home and saw my father and some gangsters arguing in the road but I thought nothing of it, wanting to go to my friend’s house I walked out my front door and took a few steps into the street as I heard a loud pop sound. I had a burning sensation and when I looked down at my leg there was a bullet stuck in my calf and blood was pouring out,” says Mansoer.
Caught in the crossfire, Mansoer to this day doesn’t know who shot him. The worst part, he explains is that his father just stood at the end of the road and barely looked at him.
“I was 13, he saw that I was shot and he just stood there. He didn’t help me. I remember the pain and the tears that poured down my face. I knew that any tiny hope I had to have a relationship with him was gone.”
Mansoer would return to hospital many times mostly for man-inflicted injuries.
Mansoer, like many of his neighbourhood friends grew up in a culture of violence, at 15 he experienced a life-changing moment when he witnessed his childhood best friend Brady being murdered by a 16 year-old boy from the area.
“That day changed my life, it was that moment that I knew I didn’t want to be caught up in the violence that takes place in my community,” says Mansoer.
He describes the moment that he saw his friend being hit on the head with a brick as a painful one. As he talks about it, Mansoer looks out the window and the normally vibrant teen goes soft.
“I remember seeing my best friend in pain, I was young, scared and angry, all I wanted to do was find the person who did this and hurt him back. But I knew I had to get my friend help,” says Mansoer.
Despite his best efforts, his friend died in hospital the next day. His murder case was covered in daily newspapers and investigated by police.
For two years, Mansoer who witnessed the murder had to be faced with seeing his best friend’s murderer in his neighbourhood often.
“Seeing him in the streets was difficult, but I had to tell myself that justice would be served if not on earth then on the day of judgement,” says Mansoer.
He admits that facing the anger was not easy, but he knows that landing in jail is not going to bring his friend back.
From being shot in the leg to witnessing his childhood best friend being murdered, Mansoer seems to carry the weight of his past whimsically on his shoulders.
Mansoer used his life experiences to channel his energy into something more positive. Today you will find Mansoer on stage – his favourite place to be.
Using dance as an escape has been Mansoer coping mechanism. Describing the feeling of dancing, Mansoer says that when the music plays, its heavy beat drowns out the reality of his life as easily as it does the sounds of the cheering crowds.
Mansoer closes by saying, “do not let your family or surroundings dictate who you should become. Find something you love and channel all your energy there. In tough times your passion will pull you through.”
Mansoer is a Leaders’ Quest participant, an intervention offered Salesian Life Choices.