In Johannesburg for a string of corporate shows, we managed to find and talk to three pickpockets, one of whom claimed to be reformed. He is Mondli, seen here on the left, with Hector, 29 years old and still active. With a translator, we and the thieves went to the city’s enormous muti market, sprawled over many acres under a freeway overpass. Muti is traditional African medicine, made of plant and animal parts, and it is dispensed by a sangoma or inyanga, types of witchdoctor.
Mondli and Hector purchased herbs which, when boiled and drunk, and/or bathed in, will “make them invisible to police.” Mondli’s interest in this herb increased our skepticism of his reformed status.
The sangoma dissolved into laughter when the honest thief among us asked her if she had muti to make his penis smaller.
Elaborate consultation houses stand in the otherwise haphazard market. This one, on the right, was larger than most; others were precious dollhouses, barely wide enough to contain two adults.
We also interviewed a 24-year-old pickpocket named Sihle, who uses razor blades to slice the back pockets of men looking at magazines in bookshops. (Very specific M.O., no?) The wallet then drops into Sihle’s hand, he explained, while the razor blade is stored in a slit in his shirt cuff.
Off duty, we got VIP treatment at private game parks. At 14 weeks old, this lion cub enjoyed its last playdate with humans. Heavy and strong, it began to exercise its instinct to go for the neck, as Bob learned that day.