WHILE their parents worry about putting food on the table, teenagers in Nelson Mandela Bay are destroying expensive, top- brand clothing – all in the name of one-upmanship.
The practice of izikhothane or skothane (the lickers) – also known as amahlanya (crazy ones) or amaTalian (Italians) – has groups of high school pupils between the ages of 13 and 19 ripping up expensive clothing and pouring pricey alcohol or yoghurt over them during a challenge known as Carvela Day.
On Friday, a group of pupils from Ithembelihle High School were eagerly waiting for classmate Mawethu Mbekele at a vandalised garage in Ntshekisa Road, New Brighton.
Mbekele, 16, was said to have been spreading rumours at school and on Mxit that he wears more expensive clothes than fellow pupil Siphosethu "Sonic” Madika – so much so, he was willing to challenge him.
Madika, 16, known for splashing money around and wearing expensive Italian clothes – hence his being called an "Italiana” – was waiting to show Mbekele who was the real "izikhothane” (licker) at school.
The two squared off in a show-off session to screams from a crowd of onlookers.
Mbekele’s clothes included a pair of red 201 crown leather Carvela shoes which cost R1500, a pair of Red Belt jeans worth R750, a Signal belt at R250, and a Diesel T-shirt which cost R550.
"You see I’m more expensive than you Sonic and you can tell your friends that I wear more expensive clothes than all of you!” he told Madika.
Madika, who was wearing an Urban T-shirt valued at R390, a Carvela belt worth R400, a Nike cap worth R180, Identity trousers at R450 and a pair of 920H plain vamp signature Carvela shoes costing R1800, was a crowd favourite as he gave away a pair of silver earrings before the "battle”. A volunteer who shined his shoes scored R20 from him.
"My entire outfit can deposit a house for your mother,” shouted Madika, before showering Mbekele with yoghurt.
Madika’s supporters also chipped in, pouring whisky and cooldrink over Mbekele’s outfit.
This was a demonstration of a disturbing new trend in which high school pupils, mostly from impoverished homes, destroy clothes and flash money to impress a rival group. The name Carvela Day is derived from the Italian shoe brand Carvela, with prices ranging between R450 and R2000 a pair.
School principals have been trying to discourage pupils from participating in these challenges and some have threatened to expel any pupil seen participating in the events but they have been unable to control the situation as the challenges are held after school and at weekends.
Kwazakhele High School principal Mkuseli Kungwayo said he had to call in police to talk to a group of about 20 boys who were participating in the challenges.
"This is after we heard complaints from the community that children from our school were part of a group that normally disturb traffic flow at the busy Meke and Njoli roads.
"The boys said they were amaTaliana and held competitions in which they showed off their clothes.
"This is disturbing to us as this competition promotes gangsterism. Most of these boys are raised by a single mom or granny and there’s no father present, which raises a lot of questions on where they get money.
"They also can’t explain why they need to show off their clothes or what they will benefit from the competition,” Kungwayo said.
The foster mother of a 16-year-old boy, who did not wish to be named, said the pressures of being an Italian/skothane had forced her foster son to demand his foster-care grant.
"Out of R800 he will buy one labelled T-shirt or put a deposit on a pair of Carvela shoes which cost about R1500. Now I still need to feed this child for a month and pay for his other needs but he doesn’t care. All he wants is these clothes and I think the pressure from friends is making him behave strangely at home. He wasn’t always like this,” she said.
Original Top Skipper (OTS), a skothane group from Kwazakhele High, said the pressures of being an Italiana or skothane were that you had to constantly reinvent new trends in fashion and attitude.
"The more expensive your clothes are, the more popular you will be among girls and peers. This also boosts your confidence and motivates you to save up more money in order to buy clothes,” said group member Ntsika Masoka.
The group has been banned from participating in any Carvela Day challenges by their principal but says the event is so big that not only township schools participated, but also pupils from former model C schools, the northern areas and Malabar.
"A group challenge draws more crowds than a one-on-one challenge. Here the real Italians come wearing only Italian brand names.To impress the other group and the crowd they will even speak Italian.”
While izikhothane in Gauteng are known for burning and tearing clothes during their challenges, OTS said instead they would bring old clothes to donate to a "loser”.
"In our eyes the loser is naked and is admiring our style but cannot afford it. So we would give them the old clothes to wear,” Masoka said.