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Terugskiet (returning fire): Growing up on the street corners of Manenberg, South Africa

Ted Legget, Institute for Security Studies

This chapter focuses on criminal street gangs in the Cape Flats (Cape Town) that have been a feature of coloured communities there for over fifty years, and are aligned to prison gangs, known as the numbers. Part One gives a contextualised summary of these groups. Part Two takes a closer look at the human face of this phenomenon, with profiles of individuals involved. Part Three examines possible solutions to the problem, with an evaluation of relevant social programmes and policies.

The population selected for study was the ‘coloured’1 population of the Cape Flats outside Cape Town, South Africa. While children of many ethnic communities in South Africa are involved in armed violence, the coloured population suffers the highest rates of homicide in the country (Figure 1). Figure 1: Projected 2003 murders per 100,000 by population group Source: Thompson, 2004 The Western Cape, where Cape Town is located, also has the highest rates of crime and homicide in the country (Figure 2), and the policing areas that comprise Cape Town have the highest rates within the province. The highest rates of violent crime, including serious assault and rape, are found in the Northern Cape. Although the South African government no longer releases statistics on ethnicity and crime, these two provinces are the only ones that do not have a majority black population – over half the population of both provinces is coloured. This would suggest that coloured areas are subject to more crime than other areas. This assertion cannot be confirmed based on official statistics, as the government refuses to release station level statistics. Figure 2: 2002/3 crime rates by province
Source: South African Police Service Crime Analysis Information Centre

The crime rates in the Western Cape are difficult to explain because the Western Cape is the most developed province in the country, with the lowest unemployment rates and the most equal income distribution (Table 1). This would suggest that non-economic factors are needed to explain the high crime in the area. Historical and cultural factors, such as might be associated with an ethnic group, are one possibility.


There is not, nor has there ever been, a clear definition of the population group referred to as ‘coloured’. Since at least the 19th century, there has been recognition of a non-Bantu-speaking ethnic group located primarily in the Cape, but the term ‘coloured’ was used during this time to describe everyone who was not a colonist. The term acquired its present connotation in the early 20th century but remained vague and subject to arbitrary manipulation. Even the Population Registration Act of 1950, which legally divided the population of South Africa into the four ‘race’ groups still in use today, defined ‘coloured’ as “persons who are, or are generally accepted as, members of the race or class known as Cape Coloured”. Coloured people are often referred to as ‘mixed race’, as if in contrast to the ‘pure’ African, Asian, and European lineages. Various groups have allegedly contributed to the gene pool, including the non-Bantu Khoi (‘Bushman’) and San (‘Hottentot’) peoples, as well as the progeny of Muslim ‘Malay’ (Indonesian) slaves. According to the 2001 Census, these people were, and continue to be, concentrated in the Western, Northern, and Eastern Cape, but have significant populations in the urban areas of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. Under apartheid, they occupied a place in the hierarchy below the whites and Indians but above the Blacks. The ‘privileges’ of being coloured did much to consolidate a sense of independent identity, but many complain that this intermediate status has meant that they were not ‘white enough’ for the past regime and are not ‘black enough’ for the present one.

Table 1: Development indicators: Western Cape versus South Africa

Source: South African Institute of Race Relations

The coloured areas of the Western Cape are also unique in the country with regard to the prevalence of street gangs. The terms ‘gang’ and ‘gangsterism’ are used by the members of these groups themselves, and indicate an identification with gangs as portrayed in the international media, particularly those of the United States. While many communities complain of ‘gangs’, coloured gangs have become a defining part of everyday life in the Cape Flats. They embrace all the accoutrements of classic gang culture, including: • defending and controlling turf, which often involves violent confrontations with similarly structured rival gangs; • use of characteristic tattoos, hand signs, and language; • involvement in criminal enterprises, including drug dealing; • recruitment of young men in early adolescence. Unlike the gangs of other population groups, coloured gangs have an independent institutional identity distinct from the personalities of the present gang members, and some have been controlling the same turf for generations. The greatest national concentration of these gangs is found in the coloured townships outside Cape Town in the area known as the Cape Flats. Given the facts laid out above, it was decided to focus on this area in the study.

Prior to becoming involved in the COAV project, this researcher had already begun research into the reasons behind the high crime rates in the Western Cape and the coloured community. This included substantial desk research and some primary research. Most importantly, a 1,300 household victim survey was conducted in August 2003 in Manenberg, one of the most notorious gang areas in the Cape Flats. Sampling was random geographic, using the police enumeration areas (known as CAS blocks) as sampling units. As the population of the area is estimated at about 80,000, this sample is quite substantial (nearly 2% of the general population, nearly 8% of households). In addition to the standard victim survey questions, specific questions were asked about gangs, drugs, and involvement in the correctional system. Fieldwork was conducted by eight pollsters from the area, fluent in the local version of Afrikaans, over the course of a month. The questionnaires were precoded and the data were loaded into an SPSS file for analysis.

As a follow up to this survey, four focus groups were conducted in early October 2003 with community members to flesh out the data. These were initially intended to focus on the differences in crime experiences between people settled in different areas following a devastating tornado in 1999. Two youth (16 - 18 year olds) and two elder (40 - 59 year olds) groups were selected from different parts of the affected areas. The questions asked were expanded to cover some of the COAV materials. In addition, original research was conducted for this project in the form of a two-page yes-no/true-false questionnaire administered to 200 secondary school students on 6 October, 2003 at three senior secondary schools in Manenberg: Manenberg, Silverstream, and Phoenix. Fieldworkers administered the questionnaire during class time at all three locations, starting with final year students and working down to younger classes if necessary to complete the sample. A total of 72 males and 128 females completed the forms, including 29 16 year olds, 67 17 year olds, 64 18 year olds, and 40 students 19 years or older. One possible weakness in this sample was related to timing: final year students were in the midst of preparing for examinations, so class attendance was not optimal. It is unclear whether more- or less- motivated students were likely to have been in attendance during this time period. Of course, young people of these ages who attend school at all represent a particular segment of the overall youth population. There are inherent methodological weaknesses in giving school children a survey questionnaire to be filled out in class. The wandering eyes of their peers could lead to exaggeration or minimisation of their experiences, and the lack of face-to-face individual accountability removes a major disincentive to lying. In addition, the binary nature of the questions asked in this survey does not allow for shadings of meaning or explanations. Thus, this information could never be taken on its own as probative of any particular assertion, but triangulated with other forms of research, it does add value. There are internal consistencies that add veracity to the data, however. Questions where high levels of agreement were expected based on other research did indeed come back with positive results, whereas those where knowledge was expected to be limited came back negatively. For example, more knowledge of cannabis was expected than of Mandrax,2 and more of Mandrax than cocaine; the results were exactly as anticipated. Gender divisions, while sometimes surprising in areas where strong divisions were not anticipated, were also in-line with regard to things like participation in violence. Similarly with age: older students were more likely to have experienced certain types of violence than there younger counterparts. Remarkably, however, there were some areas where the younger kids claimed more knowledge than the older ones, suggesting that perhaps the younger cohort is growing up in a more brutal world. The younger survey participants claimed more knowledge of peer gang members, peer drug use, police corruption, and stabbing exposure. But some of this may be simply a product of the tendency of less mature students to boast. As might be expected, those questions that related to general knowledge of criminal participation by peers received the highest levels of agreement. The number one most affirmed assertion was that Manenberg youth are experimenting with drugs by the time they reach the final years of secondary school: 95% of respondents said they thought most of their peers had tried drugs. Number two concerned general gang involvement: 92% said they knew someone of their age or younger who was a member of a gang.

2 “Mandrax” was the trade name of a discontinued sedative pharmaceutical tablet containing methaqualone and diaphenhydramine. Illicitly manufactured versions of this drug are widely consumed in the Cape Flats as well as in other areas of the country.


Interview subjects for profiles in Part Two were accessed through existing community outreach structures, specifically gang caseworkers at the community centres in Manenberg and Elsie’s River. Eight gang members were interviewed: five from the Manenberg Hard Livings (HL) Gang, two from the Elsie’s River 26 Americans, and one girl gangster from Manenberg, aged 17 to 29. All of these gang members had joined in their early teens. Under 17 year old members were not interviewed, to avoid ethical complications. In addition, focus groups were held with both Manenberg and Elsie’s River gang members, and four focus groups were held with Manenberg community members: two with youth 16 to 18 and two with elders 40 to 59. The Manenberg gang one-on-ones were held in a private flat in HL territory while the focus groups were held in a venue outside the area with a specialised interview area. The Elsie’s River interviews were held in the community centre. In order to encourage candour, the one-on-ones were not recorded, but all the focus groups were recorded and transcribed. In researching Part Three, the researcher contacted via telephone a range of contacts that have been active in either evaluating or in actively providing services to young offenders, including wellplaced individuals in the Cape Town area from the National Institute for Crime Prevention and the Reintegration of Offenders (NICRO), the Centre for Conflict Resolution (CCR), and the Open Society Foundation (OSF), as well as requesting documents from the Gauteng-based Khulisa rehabilitation programme, Ekupholeni Mental Health Programme, the President’s Award programme, and the National Peace Accord Trust. Several of these contacts were asked to identify two best practice programmes aimed at children and youth in organised armed violence. These interviews established that there are no government-run programmes in this area, and the majority of non-governmental interventions remain unevaluated. As surprising as it might sound given the magnitude of the problem, most of the programmes that are available are based on little more than the intuitions of their founders.

Area of Study Profile South Africa is a country of 44.8 million people inhabiting an area of 1.2 million km, 3 slightly larger in both respects than Colombia. Since independence from apartheid rule was won in 1994, it has been divided into nine provinces. Per capita annual income was $11,290 in 2002, which, according to the United Nation’s 2003 Human Development Report, is about the same as Argentina.4 Its Gini Index (a measure of income inequality, or the shares of national income enjoyed by the richest and poorest sectors of the population) is 59.3, which, according to the UN, is not quite as bad as Brazil’s. There are 11 official languages. According to the country’s last national census in 2000, just under a quarter of the population are native Zulu-speakers, about a fifth Xhosa-speakers, 14% speak Afrikaans at home, and 9% English, with the remainder speaking other Bantu languages. Ethnically, using the old apartheid categories, the population is about 79% black African, 10% white, 9% coloured (mixed race) and 2% Asian (primarily Indian).

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United Nations Development Programme (2003), “Human Development Report”. Ibid


HIV seroprevalance is among the highest in the world, with 20% for the population between the ages of 14 and 49.5 This has reduced life expectancy to 51. Thus, while South Africa has a comparable per capita income as Argentina, Argentina is rated in the Human Development Report as the 34th most developed country of 175 ranked, while South Africa sits at 111.6 Figure 3: Comparative crime rates – South Africa and England and Wales Source: South African Police Service; British Home Office Until 1994, South Africa was a non-democratic country controlled by its white minority under the notorious policy of racial segregation known as apartheid. Since that time, there have been three national government elections, all of which were won by quite a wide margin by the African National Congress (ANC), the party of Nelson Mandela, president until 1999.

Crime in South Africa
In 1998, according to the Interpol statistics, South Africa had the highest recorded murder rate in the world, at 59 per 100,000.7 According to South Africa’s official police statistics, this figure has declined considerably since that time, coming down to about 47 per 100,000 in the 2002/3 financial year,8 but this still places the country among the most dangerous places in the world, at least among those that collect crime statistics. South Africa also has some of the world’s highest rates of rape and robbery, as well as other violent crimes. But with regard to property crimes, the country compares favourably with developed countries, such as England and Wales (Figure 3). Firearms ownership is high: in October 2002 there was one registered firearm for every six South Africans over 20,7 and this does not take into account what is, by all estimates, a massive pool of unregistered firearms. In the financial year 2001/2, the South African Police Services (SAPS) reported seizing over 20,000 illegal firearms,9 and every year around 15,000 South Africans are arrested for illegal possession of firearms and ammunition.10 Firearms were used in over 90,000 robberies and attempts, and in 32,000 murders and attempts in 2000.11 Thus, South Africa’s problem is not crime in general, but violent crime, including violent acquisitive crime, such as robbery (Figure 4). While murder rates (the best indicator of the real crime situation because of minimal underreporting) have come down consistently since 1994, indicating a decline in real violence, this change has not been consistent across the country. Most notably, the murder rate in the Western Province has remained high (Figure 5). Figure 4: Comparative robbery rates
Source: Newman, 1999

Figure 5: Murder rates per 100,000 – South Africa and the Western Province
Source: South African Police Service

Indeed, as explained above, the Western Cape has the highest crime rate in the country, and the second highest violent crime rate, trailing only the Northern Cape. And in crime categories where incidence has stabilised or declined in other urban areas, the Western Cape is experiencing continued increases.
Ibid INTERPOL (1999), “International Crime Statistics”. Lyon: International Criminal Police Organisation. 7 Crime Information Analysis Centre (2004), 2002/3 Crime Statistics. 8 Mistry, D., A. Minnaar, J. Redpath, and J. Dlamini (2002), “The role of the criminal justice system in excluding unfit persons from firearm ownership”. Pretoria: Unpublished report of the Institute for Human Rights and Criminal Justice Studies, Technikon SA. 9 South African Police Service (2002), “Annual Report of the South African Police Service”. Pretoria: Government Printers. 10 CIAC (2004) op cit. 11 Ibid.
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The Western Province
The port of Cape Town assured that the area surrounding it became one of the first areas to be developed by the colonists. The Cape is subject to regular bouts of foul weather but is technically ‘temperate’ and suitable for agriculture, particularly wine making. According to Stats SA, the Western Cape is the second most urbanised province in South Africa (89%), second only to Gauteng (97%).12 It is also, by quite a wide margin, the most developed province in terms of a range of indicators, as laid out in Table 1 above. In addition, the Western Cape is second only to Gauteng in the percentage of the population with tertiary qualifications (11.2% compared to 12.6%, against a national average of 8.4%). It is second only to the Northern Cape in the percentage of dwellings that are formal (78.4% compared to 80.2% against a national average of 63.8%), and in it’s 2002 matriculation pass rate (87% compared to 90%, against a national average of 68%).13 It is therefore not surprising that the Western Cape experienced the fastest rate of population growth in the country between 1996 and 2001 (2%). In addition, it had one of the highest levels of inward migration in the country between 1992 and 1996, second only to Gauteng.14 Fifty-one percent of these migrants were from the Eastern Cape,15 a province that is 83% Xhosa.16 It is therefore likely that the majority of new immigrants to the area are black. However, at present the dominant ethnic group in the area is coloured. According to the 2001 Census data, coloured people make up 54% of the population, followed by black people (27%), white people (18%) and Indians (1%).

The Cape Flats: Manenberg
In this study, gangsters were interviewed in two coloured townships – Manenberg and Elsie’s River – but most of the additional fieldwork was done in Manenberg. Manenberg provides a good case study of a coloured township that has a long history of gang problems. Manenberg is a township of just over 80,000 residents located just inland from the city of Cape Town. It is part of what is called the ‘Cape Flats’, a flat, arid area into which the ‘non-white’ urban population of Cape Town was ‘removed’ under South Africa’s segregationist laws. These laws were first extended to the coloured population under apartheid’s Group Areas Act of 1950. The Cape Flats are conveniently located within commuting distance but out of sight of the city centre. Housing black and coloured people in separate areas of the Flats allowed a ready source of cheap labour while reserving the city itself for white residents. Since the original removals, the area has also become the first stop for new migrants to the area, especially the masses of Xhosa-speaking people emigrating from the impoverished Eastern Cape. Manenberg itself was established between 1966 and 1970, and consists of two types of housing: rows of semi-detached houses and ‘council flats’, which come in two- and three-storey permutations. Since it was originally planned merely to house labour, there was little planning for the development of local business and services, and to this day the area remains largely residential. Focus group members said they had to go outside the area to buy clothing, for example. Manenberg is separated from the neighbouring black community of Guguletu by rows of fenced-in railroad tracks.
South African Institute of Race Relations (2002), “Fast Facts: Provincial Profile, Western Cape” Ibid. 14 P Kok, M O’Donnovan, O Bouare, and J van Zyl (2003) Post-apartheid patterns of internal migration in South Africa. Pretoria: HSRC Publishers. 15 Ibid. 16 Census 2000.
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The area has long been notorious for criminal activity, particularly gangsterism. Manenberg was the home of the infamous Staggie twins, Rashied and Rashaad. They led what was at one time one of the most formidable gangs in the Cape, the Hard Livings Kids. Rashaad, who was generally seen as the thinker of the two, was killed by the vigilante group People Against Gangsterism and Drugs (Pagad) on 4 August 1996 (discussed further below). Rashaad confronted a Pagad protest mob assembled outside his Salt River home only to be shot and burned alive, in full view of television cameras and the police, by the well-armed vigilante group. His brother, known as ‘Mad Dog’, continues to reign to this day, according to members of his gang, despite claims that he has converted to Christianity, that he has an injunction barring him from entering Manenberg except to participate in anti-gang activities, and that he was recently arrested for raping a young girl. As a girl gangster interviewed described her hometown:

It is so unliveable there. That place is almost like hell on earth. Really. That place is like hell. I don’t like that place. If I am going to have children one day I am not going to let them grow up there. It is hell on earth.
Brief Historical Analysis of the Situation

We must go way back – what made us gangsters. Because there was something that go wrong in this world – that make some people gangsters and some people … and some people killers. - Senior 26 American, Elsie’s River
As discussed above, while other ethnic communities in South Africa have what are referred to as ‘gangs’, these tend to be short-term associations of criminal individuals, rather than institutions in themselves. 17 In common parlance, any group of delinquent young people could be referred to as a ‘gang’, but these groupings do not necessarily have a life independent of the personalities of their members. In other words, if the individuals involved in the ‘gang’ were to be arrested or killed, the ‘gang’ would cease to exist. This is not true for the gangs of the Cape Flats and other coloured areas of the country. For a combination of reasons that have been and will be discussed, it is especially in the coloured community that gangs have become a dominant feature of life and local culture. Institutional gangs have not always been the exclusive province of the coloured population. They were a major issue in the black townships around Johannesburg in the past. This has been ably documented by Clive Glaser (2000) in his book Bo-Tsotsi: The Youth Gangs of Soweto, 1935 1976. Glaser argues that the political struggle for democracy absorbed many of the young people who had previously turned to gangs for meaning. This level of political participation was not seen in the coloured community, and the lack of a sense of alternative purpose for angry youth may be one reason why gangs persist in the Cape Flats. It is also cause for concern that, as political momentum is lost and emerging black youth lose faith in the ability of the government to deliver on development promises in their lifetimes, black gangs may emerge as an unintended by-product of democratic victory. There are some reports that this is already happening, especially in the black townships that abut coloured areas.


There are reports that this is changing, particularly in the black areas adjoining coloured townships.


In general, at present, two types of institutional gangs in South Africa are prominent: the prison (numbers) gangs; and the coloured street gangs. As will be discussed further below, these were originally quite distinct from one another; with time, however, there developed some degree of overlap and interchange between the two.

The numbers gangs

The numbers allegedly date back to the 19th Century, according to their own quasi-Masonic rendering of their origins and apparent historical ties to a Zulu gang called the Ninevites that was active in the Witwatersrand during the closing years of the century. These groups, supposedly black African in origin, are open to members of any ethnic group, but are dominated by coloureds in the We s t e r n Cape. The iconography and mythos of the numbers gangs relate back to their colonial origins, and mirror the structures that oppressed prisoners back then. Obligatory tattoos (‘chappies’, a word that is also a local brand name for bubble gum) reflect the symbols of their foundation myth, or ‘boeke ’, and include books, swords, and military insignia. In their classic form, the numbers were three: 26s (the camp of the daylight, dedicated to raising money by trickery), the 28s (camp of the night, dedicated to improving conditions in prison), and the 27s (the camp of blood, dedicated to moderating disputes between the other two factions). Initially, all the gangs were intended to work together, each performing its own specialised function for the good of all gang members. The division between the 26s and the 28s started over the issue of whether sex between prisoners should be officially sanctioned by the gang. Today, the 28s are best known for their keeping of ‘wives’: gang members whose role is to provide sex and perform other ‘feminine’ services. The 27s have never been a large body, because of their thankless role as intermediaries. These three groups were, according to the members, originally prisoner’s rights groups, as one senior 26 gangster explained:

The prison number 26, 27 and 28 – that is the prison numbers. Now the prison number isn’t gangsters. It is people who fight for their rights. When they are in prison there are the prison orders. You don’t get coffee. Your porridge is cold and things like that. Then we discussed about it. Like gangs – sabela. We talk about it. We call it ‘sabela’ ... When we are finished with that then we know what we are going to do. Either they give us our warm coffee we want, our warm porridge we want, our food the way we want it. If he don’t give it – we will stab you. There will be guys that will go and stab you. Not all of us. Only two or three. Then we tell in court it is about that – there are people that go into Pretoria – they were hanged in prison for their rights. Because they were suffering.
Thus, the rules of the gangs were principally about life in prison, and governed the sales of drugs and other contraband, sexual and other types of violence, and other such matters. They also came to be present in youth reformatories 18 and, according to informants in this study, have become even more prominent in reform schools than in prison.


Children convicted of criminal offences can be sentenced to residential reformatory schools, which often teach industrial skills.


In the 1980s, however, with the growth of the drug trade and its potential profits, the numbers gangs began to take a greater interest in the street gangs. New gangsters, prominent in the street but unknown inside prison walls, had the resources to buy prison gang rank and associated lore.19 Eventually, prison gangs began to manifest themselves under their own names on the streets, and street gangsters who had never been to prison could buy numbers membership. One informant in this study claims Rashied Staggie was key in bringing prison gang membership to the streets.

It was 1984 when it start – they come out – prisoners – Staggie and those – they all came out that year. 1984/1985 - now they come out – they start making business. Selling drugs. Rashied personally decided to stamp the boys – youngsters outside. He decided to stamp them HL and to make them number gangs outside the prison. That was the break in the tradition – you don’t get your number outside of prison. Rashied decided because their fight against the Americans and the Americans was so many and so powerful – that they also wanted to recruit as many of the youngsters as possible and it is a fact that Rashied personally gave the order and he himself got involved in stamping the youth. - Senior 26 American, Elsie’s River
At least one key analyst argues that this date is too early, and that the numbers only appeared on the streets in 1989 at the earliest.20 Aside from these classic numbers, several spin off gangs emerged and still persist in the province of Gauteng: the so-called ‘fourth camp’, gangs calling themselves the 24s, the 25s, and the 29s. These are not acknowledged by the classic gangs for the most part, and have been virtually eliminated in the Western Cape. The 29s, for example, refer to themselves as the ‘Royal Airforce’ and are dedicated to escaping from prison, an ethos which is directly contrary to that of the original numbers, whose members are dedicated to making a life for themselves inside. At present, the primary feud on the streets is between 26s and 28s. Once outside the prison walls, the 26/ 28 conflict fell in line with street alliances, mainly the division between so-called ‘Firm’ and ‘non-Firm’ aligned gangs (see below). The most prominent of the non-Firm gangs is the Americans, which are typically seen as 26 aligned, while the Firm gangs are seen as 28 aligned. This division is uneasy, however, because in prison members of any street gang can join either number. Even the Staggie twins, one-time leaders of the Hard Livings Gang, had different numbers: Rashaad was a 26, and Rashied is a 28. Thus, prison gang brothers could become street gang enemies, and vice versa. How this is ultimately negotiated seems to vary a lot from case to case. According to one junior Manenberg HL member, the power of the numbers was largely restricted to prison: “He can’t tell me here what to do – he might do so in jail. That is their place. They might hit us there, but here we can hit them.”

Street gangs
While their names have changed over the years, street gangs have been a major feature in the coloured community since at least the end of WWII.21 In their early manifestations in District Six (a mixed race area in central Cape Town which was dismantled under Group Areas), and elsewhere, they were often protective neighbourhood formations designed to fend off ‘skollies’ (wandering criminals). But often these protective formations became predatory as members took over rival criminal operations and began to extract protection money from community members.22
Street gangsters had always joined the numbers while in prison, but formerly they had to start at the bottom, no matter how big they were on the outside. The drug money allowed street gang members to buy rank in the numbers. 20 Jonny Steinberg, personal communication. 21 Don Pinnock (1988) op cit. 22 Ibid.


Gangs in the original coloured areas became especially important after the Group Areas forced removals, because young men from different communities were removed to the same area and found themselves in competition for scarce local resources. The clearest lines of formation were along lines of the previous communities, and so the gangs found a new identity in the Cape Flats. This also had the consequence of creating cells of District Six gangs in different communities, a fact that made regional organisation a possibility. The introduction of Mandrax in the mid 1980s and crack cocaine after 1994 added new fuel to the gang fire. Suddenly, gangs provided the real possibility of wealth for a select few. The Americans gang, headed by Athlone-based gangster Jackie Lonte, is generally credited with introducing crack to the Cape Flats. According to one senior 26 American gangster:

Jackie Lonti – he was one of the first guys that went to Brazil – he went over to Latin America to go and negotiate deals and from then onwards these mules were coming to SA. In my church there is one – a church girl of 16 or 17 years of age – who is sitting in prison in Brazil now as a result of being a mule, but then she was caught. Jackie Lonte’s story – Jackie had an association with the … and all kind of Americans and he was one of the key guys that brought Americans together. Through his connection with his dealings and so. He was a very daring character. He lived – he operated in the Athlone area. He was also a very violent kind of character. Jackie was the cause of the organisation People Against Gangsterism and Drugs being formed. Because he got these people – they were now high on drugs and they couldn’t pay and who needed to use those drugs on a regular basis – addicted to drugs – he then got them to leave their vehicles at his house. So they had to pawn their cars and their guns and so on. These were the kids of rich Muslim Indian families. Many occasions they would get phone calls from Jackie Lonte or his men to demand money from the parents of these kids, whom he held captive at one of his venues and if they didn’t pay …then he would threaten the families. So Jackie was in Ecstasy, speed – all kinds of drugs and so Jackie was the reason why Pagad was formed.
The Firm, organised by notorious 28 gangster Colin Stanfield of Vahalla Park in 1996, was an attempt to organise all the gangs into a single money-making business and to reduce in-fighting. There is evidence that he was partly effective in this attempt, but that a faction of 26 aligned Americans, including the influential Jackie Lonte, broke away. This central fissure remains a source of conflict to this day. Each generation seems to spawn its own street gangs, but these are usually in some way continuations of early versions. Thus, older gangsters who might have once been members of The Mongrels, The Cape Town Scorpions, or The Born Free Kids may today be members of The Junkie Funkie Kids, The Dixie Boys, or The Clever Kids. The proliferation of gangs with ‘Boys’ or ‘Kids’ in the name may partially be a result of school groupings (‘baby gangs’) being integrated wholesale into the established gang groupings, and sometimes taking over. Thus, older respondents in the present study were often members of groups such as The Mongrels or The Cape Town Scorpions in their youths, but are presently members of gangs controlling the same areas, simply renamed. School age children play at being gangsters and form formations for mutual protection and general mischief. It can be difficult to differentiate between these groups and street gangs. According to a youth from Manenberg, “Sometimes a group just name themselves, but they don’t become gangsters. They just name them for the name. Not for other motives – only for the name.” But sometimes these playgroups emulate their elder siblings, taking the names of street gangs, and eventually graduating as a cohort into street gang membership.

Playtime it is just like a hopie [small crowd] here, hopie here. They fight amongst each other. Then they make up some of their friends – who don’t go to school – to wait for this little guys. These guys are not gangsters – they are decent chappies. But now they go under …. - Elder community member, Manenberg

Actors Involved
There is no easy way of estimating how many gangs or gang members there are in the Cape Flats. There is no clear dividing line between wannabe groups like the school gangs and real street gangs, and the names and territories of street gangs are subject to constant amendment. Prison gang membership is binding even after release, but former inmate’s involvement in ongoing criminality varies considerably. Even the concept of ‘membership’ is vague, because many gangs go through slumps during which regular involvement in gang activities may be suspended. Despite this, estimates of numbers abound, often slanted to emphasise the seriousness of the problem. One community worker interviewed had this to say:

You will be surprised – in this area [Elsie’s River] there are 5,500 gang members. In the whole Western Cape there is 150,000 gang members. They organise – they have cells here and they have cells there.
The victim survey in Manenberg can provide some indication of gang prevalence. Since the survey area (the police station area) was not restricted to Manenberg proper and included a number of more affluent areas, only 60% of the respondents said they felt a gang controlled their area. Of those, the following gangs were mentioned as controlling respondents’ neighbourhoods: • • • • • • • Americans (57% of mentions) Hard Livings Kids (29%) Junky Funky Kids (22%) Dixie Boys (17%) Clever Kids (12%) Cat Pounds (10%) Jesters (8%)

According to the police, the Cat Pounds are an upstart school gang, and are comprised mainly of school-age members. This illustrates the dynamic nature of the pool of street gangs. While the number of mentions could have been affected by sampling, this would appear to represent a decline in the fortunes of the Hard Livings, who formerly dominated the area, in favour of the Americans. But most of these gang territories seem to be well established, since 75% of those polled said the gang had been in their area for more than three years. While territories may be small, membership is believed to be high: 53% said the gang that controlled their area had more than 50 members; 16% said it had more than a hundred. In addition, 72% said the size of gangs had increased in the last five years. The school survey also suggested that gang domination of the entire territory of Manenberg is not complete: 56% said a gang controlled the area where they live, with equal shares of boys and girls so responding. This corresponds well to the 60% of victim survey respondents who said there were gangs in their area.

This would suggest a substantial share of the young male population is involved in gangs, but estimating the total number of gang members, or gang member prevalence, is difficult. A quarter of respondents were willing to admit that they had friends or family members who were members of gangs, and 7% said that a gang member resided in their households. But 7% also refused to say whether gang members resided in their households, so the number may be higher still. Fieldworkers reported that subjects bearing clear gang tattoos would deny that gang members were residing in the household when asked during the survey. In the school survey, a total of 19% of the boys said that someone in their home is a gang member, compared to 13% of the girls. This makes sense if some of the male respondents were themselves gang members. While the victim survey found only 7% of the respondents willing to say that a gang member lived in their household, this varied by the age of the respondent: less than 4% of respondents over 50 said they lived with gang members. Given that 40% of the households said no gang controlled their area, this would suggest that there are neighbourhoods where as many as one household in eight or nine could house a gang member. Using only the share of households willing to admit harbouring a gang member, this suggests at the very least 1,400 gang households in a community of about 80,000, and it is possible (if not likely) that multiple members could reside in a single household. A community estimate of over 5,000 members, such as the one given by the community worker above, could be in the right ballpark. This would account for about 30% of the male demographic between the ages of 10 and 30.

Command Structure
Since this project concerns children and youth in organised armed violence, the focus is on street gangs. While prison gangs do have a street presence today, this is largely merged with street gang membership, as is the case with the Elsie’s River 26 Americans. The rank structure of the number gangs is military, with each member being taught a complex description of the imaginary uniform they wear. For example, according to one source, the rank structure of the 26 gang (and accompanying insignia of office) is as follows, in order of seniority: Makwezi (16 stars) General (also known as maspaal or slagozi – 12 stars) Fighting General (also called madageni or band – 8 stars) Captain 1 (also called draad or tandolo – 6 stars) Captain 2 (4 stars) Sergeant Major (3 stripes and a castle) Sergeant 1 (3 stripes) Sergeant 2 (2 stripes) Nongidela (also called mountain or berg). 23


Senior Superintendent J A Vearey, “Intelligence Coordination Report”. Unpublished report.


The ranking structure of street gangs, in contrast to the prison gangs, is often informal, with dominant members commanding respect more from force of personality than by reference to status within the institution. There is also considerable variation between gangs and even within gangs situated in different areas in this regard. The Manenberg Hard Livings, for example, seems to have a flat leadership structure, with a semi-democratic form of decision-making based on weekly group meetings. The authority of the Staggie family is not questioned, but beyond that, authority seems to rise from initiative more than from formal promotions. Terms like ‘laksman’, ‘dikneck’, and ‘slagozi’ are tossed about, but these seem more honorific titles than designations of structural authority. The Americans interviewed in this study in Elsie’s River, on the other hand, were heavily aligned to the 26s, and thus acknowledged their rank structure. They were also dealing with what appears to be a much more lucrative local drug market, and so had a need for a more rigid chain of command. Within the gang, there does appear to be some functional designation. Sales of drugs, for example, seem to be mostly limited to designated individuals, but this too may vary across time. Junior members, including the youngest members, are assigned to the front line during confrontations. Members with skills and talents (such as mechanical skills or business acumen) are assigned to duties that exploit these talents. According to a junior HL gang member in Manenberg, “They look for guys with business acumen. They get higher responsibilities within the gangs.” Given the Staggie example, it would seem possible for gang leaders to head an organisation, even if not allowed to enter the township. Most, if not all, top gang leaders live outside the Cape Flats, although they do maintain homes in the townships. Imprisoned leaders are given great deference, in part as a self-protection measure in case of incarceration. Sunday is the traditional day to visit gang leaders and comrades in prison. The following quotes all come from junior HL members in Manenberg:

It is a culture in the gangs that you must go and show your respect – keep the contact and show the guy that you supporting [him]. One person is only allowed to have one visitor – then each one of them give a name of someone that is inside. A whole lot of them can come out and when they are out there they just speak to each other for a couple of minutes. They exchange. That is what they do – that is how everybody gets to see everybody.
The primary purpose of these visits would seem to be to bring money and contraband to the inmates: “You can’t go empty handed to jail – you have to take him some money.” It would appear that gang leaders can still order hits from inside, but they are carried out in anticipation of future reward.

He phones out of jail –someone is getting out of jail and he wants him killed. He is still in jail, so he tells you to do it. The big guy is coming out then and then – we must kill him. Then they pay you – when they come out they will pay you.
At least one focus group respondent argued that imprisoned leaders still called the shots: “If there is a gang fight and the gang leader is in prison – then he give the command to the outside people.”

Relations with the Community
Media stories, as well as the focus groups of this study, suggest that the extent to which gangs are supported by their communities varies across gangs, across areas, and across time. The recent rallying of Valhalla Park residents to demand the early release of notorious gang boss Colin Stanfield, who was serving time for tax evasion but had contracted cancer with a prognosis of a few months of life remaining, illustrates one side of the spectrum. But in Manenberg, only 14% said they believed gang members to be respected by the community, and 5% refused to answer the question. Most community members interviewed agreed that it was possible to avoid involvement with the gangs by minding your own business. While gang members needed to be greeted on the street and shown respect, the community members argued that they could not force anyone to become involved with them unless the relationship was, at least initially, voluntary.

That is why you must be aware of the gangs. They are very cunning. They suck you in. You can be a humble guy too. But if they get a loophole they will suck you in. That is how it is done. They can’t hurt you if you ignore them. You are doing nothing. I just ignore them – walk past them. If they greet me I just say hi. - Elder community member, Manenberg
The way gangs win new supporters is by offering assistance in various forms. Oftentimes, this assistance is economic, and the poverty of the area means that many people will eventually find themselves turning to the gangs for help.

They wait for you to come and ask them. When you start asking them you are going back and going back. Then when you go back to them – ‘keep this parcel for me.’ Now you are in it. Elder community member, Manenberg
Another elder community member in Manenberg said, “I told my wife, ‘You don’t take anything from any one of them – nothing. If we haven’t got a bread in the house – don’t ask anybody.’” In exchange for silence, some community members felt the gang members should protect the residents of their turf from crime. An elder community member from Manenberg stated that “If they stole your stuff you go to the gang leader and if it is one of them then they will get a hiding.” But over half of the respondents said gang members stole from community members exclusively, while 39% said they stole from both the community and outsiders. Although a third of respondents said gang members helped people with money sometimes, 89% said gang members did not protect non-gang members, and 84% said non-gang members would not approach gang members in order to resolve a problem. The gangsters actively cultivate a ‘Robin Hood’ image with the children of the community. Rasheed Staggie is well known for throwing money to the children of Manenberg. As might be expected, he has attained celebrity status with the youngest demographic. An elder community member in Manenberg said, “You must see how the children like him. They go mad when they see him.” From the youngest ages, boys play at being gangsters. An elder community member in Manenberg said, “[My son] is six years old and he says, ‘Ma, I am a Naughty Boy, because there is Naughty Boy gangsters.’”

The gang leaders also sponsor community youth activities, such as sports teams:

The gang leaders are like celebs here, because they sponsor soccer teams and now people see it as they are good people. They sponsor soccer, but they also get something out. Community youth, Manenberg
They are also prominent leaders of troops that compete in the annual ‘Coon Carnival’, a celebration that features brightly costumed musicians and singers marching in parade, one of the most visible manifestations of coloured culture. This relationship reinforces the extent to which gangsterism is perceived as part of coloured identity.

Role of the State Only 15% of victim survey respondents said they saw a police member in uniform in their area at least once a day, much less than the 29% who so answered nationally in the ISS 2003 National Victims of Crime survey, and 15% said they never saw the police in their area. More than half of respondents surveyed felt the police were doing a poor job, and many felt this was because they refused to come into the area (24% of mentions) or that they were just lazy (20%). This is seen as different from the apartheid past: T he police were on patrol, which we don’t do anymore today. They were walking in twos and threes. They were walking. ‘You watch that boy’ – you stand on that corner there and they will tell you, ‘if we catch you here again next time when we come down…’ - Elder community member, Manenberg
But neglect would seem to be the least of people’s worries. When asked why they felt the police were doing a poor job, 42% mentioned corruption. There are longstanding beliefs that the police, if not the state itself, have been working with the gangsters. In the BBC documentary “Cape of Fear”, taped prior to democracy, Rashied Staggie bragged that the police were the source of his firearms. There are persistent rumours that the apartheid state used the gangs to hit political activists and to neutralise political dissent in the coloured community. Whether this was official state policy or simply the innovation of certain security branch members is debatable. As has been documented elsewhere, security branch members often operated outside the law, and saw profiteering off of activities that advanced the cause as legitimate compensation for services rendered to the state.24 Only a minority of 41% of victim survey respondents was willing to say that the police took protection money from gangsters, but younger people were more cynical. In the school survey, 82% said that they believe that the police are paid off by gangsters. Fewer girls (37%) than boys (46%) had direct knowledge of someone paying a bribe in order to be let off for an offence. Focus group participants were vocal about seeing money changing hands. Police members were said to drink or consume drugs at gang-controlled shebeens (informal bars), even while on duty, in uniform. The debriefing of the survey fieldworkers suggested that specific police members could be named who tipped off gangsters whenever a raid was imminent.


Pauw, J (1997) “Into the heart of darkness: Confessions of apartheid’s assassins.” Cape Town: Jonathan Ball.


The police come beforehand to warn a drug dealer that there is going to be a raid. He is going to get paid because he gave them a tip-off. Everything boils down to money these days. - Elder community member, Manenberg
In the focus groups, reservists in particular were mentioned as gang informants. As stated by an elder community member from Manenberg, “These guys who are selling the drugs – they have got reservists or whatever that is working for the police – they inform them.” In addition, focus group respondents felt that the police would tip off gangsters whenever a community member filed a complaint against them: “If you go to lay a charge – you open up a case against any of them the police will phone that guy to say this person has been here to report a case.” Eighty-two per cent of victim survey respondents said the police would not be able to protect them if they wanted to be a witness in a murder trial.

The police were accused of being actively involved in the drug trade. According to an elder community member from Manenberg, “The police take from one drug merchant and they will go and sell the same thing to another merchant in the area. The police are responsible for doing that.” Another elder from the Manenberg community said, “I saw – the policeman came and he gives them drugs and they give him money.” Even if not actively involved, they were accused of extorting money from drug merchants: That policeman will come to me and he will say to me – just tell me where the stuff is. He will tell his buddies – you go there and search there and he will go where my stuff is – then he protect it. ‘I have already been there so it is no use going to search there anymore.’ He will return to you and you have to give him something, because he saved it. - Elder community member, Manenberg Illegal and Legal Commerce Activity While drugs seem to be the major source of income, the Cape Flats gangs are involved in a range of other activities, which vary from area to area and by gang. In the HLs, for example, those not assigned to drug sales may find themselves with a lot of time on their hands when there is no gang war pending. Much of the crime they commit is opportunistic, but occasionally a junior member will plot a more involved caper. If he does so, he can count on the gang to make guns and transport available, as well as providing a host of accomplices and a well-developed fencing network.
But the mainstay of gang criminal commerce is the drug trade. Drugs seem to be a defining characteristic of community life, and according to the victim survey, 35% of respondents could name a drug addict in their community.

I have a son he goes to work every morning at 5h00. I just tell him that he is a one day millionaire because he gets paid today and tomorrow he doesn’t even have money to buy one cigarette. All the money go to drugs. Sometimes I don’t even have food in my house, because that is the way he go on. He is 37 years old. He is not married. He haven’t got children, but he goes to work every day. If the amount is out today – he even go at midnight to draw money – just to smoke. - Elder community member, Manenberg

Victim survey respondents felt drug use had increased in the past five years (79%) and that most of the crime in the area was drug-related (69%). A remarkable 38% of respondents of all ages knew where to buy cannabis, and 30% knew where to buy Mandrax. These figures include all respondents, including the elderly. Among school children, the figures were even more shocking. A startling 79% of the respondents said they knew where to buy cannabis (referred to locally as ‘ dagga ’) in Manenberg, including 86% of the boys and 75% of the girls. Seventy per cent said they knew where to buy Mandrax: 74% of the boys and 68% of the girls. Just under half of the youth said they knew where to buy crack, with more girls than boys so responding. More than two-thirds of the boys said they knew someone of their age or younger who sold drugs, and knew someone of their age or younger who needs drugs everyday, compared to just over half of the girls. Mandrax, a street version of a discontinued pharmaceutical sedative of the same name, is abused in South Africa like nowhere else in the world. The tablet is smoked with a combination of tobacco and cannabis that has been treated with a solvent in a combination known as a ‘white pipe’. Urine testing of nearly 3,000 arrestees sampled in three cities in 1999/2000 found that over half of coloured men in the sample tested positive for Mandrax in their systems. 25 Mandrax has been one of the primary commodities traded by gang members since the mid-1980s, and its dis-inhibitive effects have been associated with violence. One of the unintended positive side effects of apartheid was that the main hard drugs abused internationally (cocaine, heroin, and amphetamine-type substances) were kept out of South Africa. After 1994, for reasons discussed elsewhere, 26 these drugs began to flood into the country. In the urine testing mentioned above, 9% of coloured arrestees tested positive for cocaine, a drug that only remains testable for 48 hours after consumption, and were second only to white arrestees in so testing. Crack has become a major drug of trade for the gangs, particularly related to the prostitution trade. The Hard Livings have cells assigned to Seapoint in the heart of Cape Town, where prostitution and drug sales are very lucrative. According to one community worker, who was not contradicted by HLs present, they are also involved in a range of other businesses:

They have mechanics also that fix their cars. Rasheid and them also bought into the security industry. They have the relationship with the security company. The host of other kind of ventures. If you want a car or anything they can get it. The HL’s doesn’t need to steal a car. They can order a car and if it is important enough for the boss or the gang leaders then they will say – go to that guy and he will give you a car – you can take that car.
According to Standing (2003), gangsters are not only the primary salesmen of drugs, but also their primary consumers, an argument that tallies well with the urine testing results. As will be discussed further on in the report, addiction may be a way that gang members are kept in the gangs.

25 26

Ted Leggett (2001), “Drugs and crime in South Africa: A study in three cities”, ISS Monograph 69. Pretoria: Institute for Security Studies. Leggett, T (2001), “Rainbow Vice: The drugs and sex industries in the new South Africa”. London: Zed Books and Cape Town: David Phillip.


Armed Confrontations The following article was released in May 2003 by the South African Press Association:

Ongoing gang-related violence on the Cape Flats seems to have stabilised after the deployment of hundreds of police to affected areas last week, Western Cape Police Commissioner, Lennit Max said on Sunday. Max said in a statement late on Sunday afternoon that 232 suspects had been arrested since Thursday in Mitchells Plain, Bishop Lavis, Bonteheuwel, Steenberg, Manenberg and other parts of the Cape Peninsula… The increased police presence became necessary after three young children were shot and killed in shoot-outs between gangs within the space of a week. In the latest incident 10-yearold Desmone Smith was wounded in the Kalksteenfontein area on Thursday night. She died in hospital on Friday… [Max] said 380 members of the South Africa Police Service (SAPS), SA National Defence Force (SANDF), City Police and local law enforcement officers took part in an operation on Thursday. More policemen and soldiers were deployed after the incident in which Smith was killed. Four men and boys aged between 14 and 24 were arrested, all of them linked to the shooting, Max said.
Armed violence is a fact of everyday life in the Cape Flats, as the Manenberg school survey revealed. Nearly half the boys surveyed said they had held a loaded gun, compared to 28% of the girls. Not surprisingly, then, 32% of the boys said they knew where to buy an illegal gun, compared to 22% of the girls. While 17% of the boys said they had carried a gun to protect themselves in the past, only two of the girls said they had done so. But six of the girls said they had brought some (unspecified) weapon to school for protection. As would be expected, more people had seen people injured than had witnessed killings, but the share in all categories is frighteningly high. Eighty-two per cent said they had seen someone stabbed, 86% of the boys and 80% of the girls. Two-thirds had seen someone shot: 71% of the boys and 63% of the girls. As would be expected, the older students were more likely to have had the experience than younger ones: 59% of the 16 year olds compared to 75% of those 19 or older. A remarkable 79% of 18 year old males said they had seen someone shot. Just under half of the children reported seeing another human being killed: 51% of the boys and 45% of the girls – 62% of the 18 year olds claimed to have had this experience. Among the gangsters, violence was even more exaggerated, and nearly all of those interviewed had been shot and had shot other people. The reasons for this violence vary from area to area. In Manenberg, gang members reported major conflicts breaking out over trivial incidents related to offended honour and territory, such as fights over women or retribution for the robbery of a gang member. In Elsie’s River, most of the violence reported revolved around the drug trade, but instances of extreme violence being used to resolve petty slights were also cited. Most of the violence seems to be between rival gangs; direct armed confrontations with the police are less common.

The police come and patrol and we are on the corner and they have got weapons and we know we can’t get away – then we will shoot our way out of the situation and we don’t care whether we kill the cops or not. - Junior HL gang member, Manenberg

The availability of firearms means that juvenile feuds quickly become lethal. The need for protection and to access firearms drives many into gang membership.

We were 14 years old then. That was the time when we threw stones. I saw that wasn’t going to work, because we threw stones at them and they shot at us. So I decided to get a gun too and shoot back as well. You shoot at me and therefore I will shoot back at you. - Junior HL gang member, Manenberg
Thus, gangsterism may be as much a response to local violence levels as it is a cause. Based on the school survey, there are plenty of guns to go around. While there was great concern about the disposal of military-type weapons used during the struggle for democracy, as well as the influx of these arms from Mozambique, the AK-47 has never emerged as a tool for criminals, with the exception of some semi-political violence in KwaZulu-Natal and the odd cash-in-transit robbery. Most of the small arms used by gang members are the traditional semi-automatic pistols used by criminals in the developed world. Firearms as a cause of death have increased their importance dramatically in recent years. Among coloured young men, homicide is the leading cause of non-natural death, and firearms have recently surpassed knives as the leading instrument of coloured homicide (Figure 6). Figure 6: Causes of coloured homicide Source: Thomson, 2004

Child and Youth Involvement
According to the victim survey, formal gang membership is believed to start around the onset of adolescence. While 28% said the youngest gang member they knew was under 12; 87% said the youngest was under 14. This is confirmed by one-on-one interviews with gang members, as all started between the ages of 13 and 15, and the bulk started at 13. There is consensus that the age of gang involvement has decreased over the years.

Today you get the gangsters – they are all children from 12 up to 14. In my time I know about gangsters. If you want to be a gangster you must start from 20 years old. - Elder community member, Manenberg
All gang members interviewed confirmed that they were armed immediately upon entering the gang. Indeed, one member was armed even before he formally joined, because of his express intent to kill members of a rival gang. Junior members are expected to form the front lines in any confrontation, as they must prove their worth to their seniors, who stand behind. It would appear that no jobs are prohibited for young people, and that any youngster showing talent for an aspect of gang work would be allowed to apply these skills for the benefit of the gang. But unlike other areas of the world, gang members can remain affiliated and active until their 40s and 50s. There is no easy way to estimate the ratio between child members and adult members in the gangs, in part because the concept of gang membership remains rather fluid.

Public Health Statistics
As has been discussed before, murder is the most common cause of non-natural death among coloured young people, particularly for young males. Indeed, more than half of all death among coloured males in the 16-30 year old demographic is caused by murder (Figure 7).

Figure 7: Percentage of all coloured deaths caused by homicide, 16-30 year age group, by gender
Source: Thomson, 2004

Special Focus: Alcohol

As will be discussed later in the report, alcohol is often cited as a main cause of the dysfunctional families that fuel gangsterism. No piece discussing the causes of violence in the coloured communities of the Western Cape would be complete without some mention of the alcohol problem. Due to their presence in the country’s wine growing areas, many coloured people have historically worked in the vineyards. As a result of the so-called ‘dop system’, in which labourers were paid part of their wages in wine, alcoholism is rife in certain parts of the community. A 1995 survey of Stellenbosch farms revealed that the dop system was still prevalent on 9.5% of farms, and the legacy of alcoholism could extend well beyond the years of farm labour. The dop system is diabolical in its ability to keep labour submissive and dependent, and has had the side effect of promoting violence, dysfunctional families, and foetal alcohol syndrome. The Western Cape has the country’s highest rates of arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol. According to Parry (1999), a 1998 study found that 55% of all non-natural deaths in Cape Town had blood alcohol concentrations equal to or greater than .08g/100ml, with the highest levels being found among homicide victims and transportation deaths. An ongoing Department of Transportation study found that 13% of pedestrians stopped nationwide after office hours had blood alcohol levels above .08g/100ml, but in the Western Cape, the figure was 23%. The Western Cape has one of the highest incidences of foetal alcohol syndrome in the world. Individuals with foetal alcohol syndrome may become involved in crime as victims or perpetrators due to poor judgement and a low frustration threshold. A study in British Columbia found that 24% of youth in jail showed evidence of foetal alcohol syndrome or foetal alcohol effects. A 1997 study in Wellington in Boland found that nearly one out of every 20 coloured school children (4.8%) showed signs of foetal alcohol syndrome. According to the Department of Health, the coloured male population is the group most likely to engage in ‘risky drinking’ during the workweek (Figure 8). Figure 8: Percent of males reporting drinking five or more drinks per day during the workweek
Source: Department of Health

Analysts trying to explain the violence in the coloured community have to address the fact that coloured people are, on average, better off than blacks, who tend to be less involved in violence.27 They have to explain why coloured people have had the highest murder rate of any ethnic group since 1914, despite dramatically changing social contexts.28 They also have to explain the prevalence and unique qualities of gangsterism in this community.

Personal Histories

27 28

See Part 1 and Thomas (2004). Op cit


The gang members were asked about their personal histories before joining the gangs in order to assess how background influences gang membership. It emerged that there is no simple, linear relationship between most social indicators and gang membership. Gang members experience essentially the same levels of deprivation as their non-gang peers. The choice to become a gang member would appear to be an individual one, made in a context where gangsterism provides a relatively attractive way of filling time. Of the seven male gang members interviewed, backgrounds varied considerably. Some were on good terms with their families and lived at home, while others were estranged. Some described their family income as average or good compared to the rest of Manenberg, while some saw themselves as relatively poor. Most came from very large families, but some did not: the average household size among the gang members was eight, but the average household size in the Manenberg victim survey sample was six. Most lived with and were on good terms with their families, but not all of them. Some had gang members in their families, but some did not. While some had been employed, all of it was unskilled or semi-skilled, and none of it lasted longer than a year. All joined gangs between the ages of 12 and 15, with a mode of 13, so that they had very little life before gangsterism, and all dropped out of high school (Table 1). Table 1: Answers to suggested background variables

Of course, they all had in common the experience of growing up in Manenberg, with the exception of Bekkies, who moved to the area at the age of nine from the similarly gang-ridden township of Pontyville. While not every boy raised in Manenberg becomes involved in gangs, the figures discussed previously suggest the behaviour may affect as many as one out of three. This takes gang membership out of the category of a deviant behaviour, at least in the Manenberg context. To determine risk and resilience factors inside the community would require far more extensive research, but the variation in backgrounds seen just in this small sampling of gang members would rule out simplistic explanations. In short, vulnerability to gang participation may be linked to several factors affecting the entire coloured community in the Cape Flats, including:

• • •

dysfunctional families, possibly linked to high levels of alcohol and drug abuse and overcrowding, leading to children spending a lot of time on the streets; ironically, population stability, which may fuel the formation of gangs; a sense of marginalisation and social exclusion under both political dispensations.

Each of these will be discussed in turn.

Dysfunctional families
Community members had strong feelings on why Manenberg generates gangsters.

I will speak from the coloured point of view – gangsterism can start in a house – I don’t say in all houses. When a child grows up in a house there should be love firstly – from parents toward them. So that they feel this place where I am staying – I am being cared for. I have a place to sleep. I am being fed, clothed. My mother and father loves me. They really care for me. You create for them an environment which they feel they don’t want to leave. They grow up – they go to school. They learn you put the law down. That at least gives them something to get on with in life once they decide to leave the house. When – I think – this is again my view – when mother and father are loveless – don’t care for the kids and mother and father both drink – there is no love … and caring for the children. The kids grow up in the loveless situation. They don’t – when they have a problem they go to father and he sits there with a dop and the child comes, ‘Dad, listen I must do this for school.’ ‘Don’t bother me, get away. Go to mother.’ The same thing happens there. Mother haven’t got time – ‘Go and ask your father.’ All these little things – they build up to something in that child. That child never has the attention of mother and father. They are busy with their own thing. When that child grows up – never had comfort – there is no warmth. There is no love in the house – that is how eventually things – there is more comfort, warmth and love outside by my friends than in this house. That is why they seek company outside. Which perhaps they find – unfortunately – amongst the gangsters. And in most instances those guys will tell you the same story that you are going through in your home. No love. Then the two of them click. They perhaps get started. They are going to look for some more guys that has got the same thing going in their life and they come together and they form a gang. ‘We feel nice – we understand one another. We have no feeling for others because nobody has a feeling for us.’ It is a psychological thing. - Elder community member, Manenberg
While most of the male gang members are reticent to speak about the ‘lack of love’ in their homes, this perspective is echoed in the words of the one female gang member interviewed:

For instance if I myself, if my mother then showed me the love and affection I wanted and my father, if he showed me that he loved me, cared for me, I would never have gone to look for love outside. I went outside to look for love and look where did love end up for me. Gangsters don’t need to be on the road, it’s the parents.
She went on to say, “The parents, the father smokes, the mother drinks, the baby cries, mother is drunk, father is in the earth, there’s just no love in the houses.” By “smokes,” she later clarified that she meant that the father smokes Mandrax.

An additional common factor is clearly housing. While household size varied among the gang members interviewed, the average of eight family members in two to three bedrooms represents considerable cramping. The victim survey showed two bedroom flats housing as many as 18 people. “People sleep in shifts,” according to an elder community member in Manenberg. Because rent in the Cape Town area is not affordable for most people – especially those living off government pensions or other state entitlements, or making a living through occasional labour or trading – the alternative to living in Manenberg would be squatting. For most coloured people, this is not an option. As a result, as families grow, so does population density, and the housing is not generally amenable to expansion. Ground floor flats and houses may have small yards, but these are often filled with shacks to house family members or tenants. An elder community member in Manenberg said, “If I have a house and my sister doesn’t have a house – I let her live in my yard in a Wendy house.” A ‘Wendy house’ is a prefabricated shed, generally intended for storage or, as the name suggests, as a playhouse for children. Thus, young people find crowded and dysfunctional homes less cordial than the street corners, and on these corners find other children with similar problems. In the victim survey, 68% of those polled said they thought children should be allowed to play unsupervised on the street at the age of 12 or less, and a quick glance around Manenberg shows that this belief is being put into practice. Everyone who has looked at the problem has traced the source of coloured gangsterism back to the street corner kids. When children spend more time on the street than in the home, the norms of the street become more important than the norms of the family. And the norms of the street are often reminiscent of the Lord of the Flies .

Population stability
In a large number of international studies, population stability has been found to be correlated with low crime levels. 29 The theory is that most crime is prevented through aversion to informal, rather than state, sanctions, and that criminals are unlikely to commit crimes in areas where they are likely to be identified. In addition, community cohesion is thought to provide some degree of mutual protection in that neighbours make protecting each other’s persons and property a priority. 30 In Manenberg, this effect may have ironically promoted the incidence of gangsterism. According to the victim survey, 88% of households polled had been in their present residence for more than five years, and fieldworkers reported most had been there in excess of 20 years. Since youth from one area would have a hard time victimising their neighbours, they are compelled to migrate to adjacent neighbourhoods in order to commit their crime. As will be discussed in the section “Process of Involvement”, the gang members interviewed repeatedly cited protection from gang members of other areas as one of their prime motivators for joining a gang.

29 30

Lee Ellis and Anthony Walsh (2000) Criminology: A global perspective. Needham Heights, Allyn and Bacon. Pp. 147-148. Ibid


Social exclusion
The coloured community under apartheid was placed over the black community, and was given preference for certain types of jobs while being excluded from others. With democracy all this fell away, and, in the views of many, little came in its place. This continued marginalisation and exclusion from opportunities has been felt even more intensely since democracy has failed to deliver on some of its promises. According to the victim survey, 53% of respondents felt the apartheid government ran the country better than the present one, while only a third felt the democratic government to be better. One of the key reasons for this is unemployment, and particularly the lack of job opportunities for young people out of school. According to Stats SA, unemployment among coloured people has increased from 23% in 1995 to 30% in 2001: an increase of 35%.31 In the victim survey, over half of the 16 to 24 year olds reported being unemployed. The gang members tied unemployment to violence:

You get up in the morning – look through the window – no job in sight – the people in the house get angry because you don’t have a job. You have been looking for one but can’t find one. They work on your nerves and you throw stuff around. - Senior 26 American, Elsie’s River
There is bitterness over the application of affirmative action. Formally, affirmative action is intended to favour all formerly disadvantaged groups, but among victim survey respondents, 71% felt that affirmative action was being applied improperly. One elder community member in Manenberg put it quite simply: “The black man gets the work.” Perhaps as a result, there is little hope that investment in education will result in an increase in living standard, and this may explain the lower levels of tertiary enrolment in the coloured community. “You send a child to school every year, but what assurance do you have?” asks another elder from Manenberg. “You pay till matric [secondary school complete] – you’ve wasted your money, because they can’t find jobs.” Some of the gang members interviewed had had some minor employment, but none of it lasted more than a year and all of it was unskilled or semi-skilled. Gang members often defiantly claim that they have taken on crime as a job by choice. “We don’t want to work like other people do,” according to a junior HL gang member in Manenburg. “We don’t want to work for other people, for the white man.” In short, there is nothing like unemployment to make one feel left out of the business of society. Whether justified or not, the feeling of being excluded from job opportunities due to race appears to be prevalent. Coloured people, previously elevated over blacks, are today effectively subject to them, and unlike the wealthier Indians and whites, they are unable to compensate for declining numbers of jobs through other business opportunities. In what Cohen has termed “reaction formation,”32 marginalised youths may invert mainstream norms. For example, employment is generally valued in mainstream culture, but since this goal does not seem attainable in some youth subcultures, marginalised youths may celebrate their independence from regular labour. This rhetoric proves to be a bit thin when probed, however, and many of the gang members interviewed said they would leave the gang if they found a job (see “Future Prospects” below).

31 32

Stats SA (2002), “Unemployment in South Africa”. Pretoria: Government Printers Cohen, Albert K. (1955), “Delinquent boys: The culture of the gang”. New York: The Free Press.


Process of Involvement

The previous section suggested some of the social background factors that feed into a community-wide susceptibility to gangsterism. This section looks at the individual incentives for joining a gang, and the mechanics of initiation. The opinions of the young people interviewed in the school survey reflected strong incentives to join gangs. For young men, there are few incentives more powerful than sex, and 86% of school youth polled said girls are attracted to gang members: 88% of the boys and 84% of the girls. This view was reflected in the focus group interviews with community youth. “If they hear you go out with a gangster – you feel cool and they won’t mess with you,” according to a young female from Manenberg. “If you are in a gang you get girls easier,” said another. “Now I also want a girl – I see it is easier for me to go in a gang than it is to go easy.” The gang members themselves did not mention this as a reason for joining a gang. Aside from sex, money is another potent motivator, especially in a community as impoverished as Manenberg: 79% of the school respondents said they believe that gang members make a lot of money. Gang members initially referred to gang membership as a job and claimed to be paid R1000 a month (less than US$150) as a salary. More detailed probing revealed that this ‘salary’ was only paid during times when there was specific gang work to be done on a daily basis, such as during a gang conflict. While higher-up gang leaders are notorious for their wealth, the foot soldiers do not seem to benefit in the same way, particularly if they are not involved in an income-generating activity, like drug sales. As one 26 argued, “The operators – it is the big guys that bring in the money.” Girls seemed to hold more illusions about the power and attractiveness of gangs. Far more girls (47%) than boys (40%) agreed with the statement “gang members are respected in the community”. These levels are much higher than those found in the victim survey, where only 14% agreed that gang members are respected. Some of the gang members interviewed did mention the quest for respect as one of the incentives for joining and participating in the gang. As the girl gangster interviewed explained:

You have to defend your banner, the existence of your gang, so I was the leader of the gang, I had to stand for my whole members of the gang, I had to produce and everything.
As was discussed previously, in the “Community Relations” section, it would appear that engagement with the gangs is, for the most part, voluntary. There would seem to be enough volunteers to avoid the necessity of conscription. While one gang member interviewed claimed to have been forced into joining, as a rule the gangs operate more subtly than this. In the school survey, fewer boys (36%) than girls (46%) believed that young people had to join gangs to avoid becoming the targets of gangs, and the boys are in a better position to know. Table 2 looks at individual reasons given for joining gangs. Table 2: Reasons given for joining gang


Scanning the above, it’s clear that the bulk of members interviewed joined the gang for defensive reasons, including revenge, with two of the more aggressive members citing school gang membership. School gangs tend to be cohorts of friends who apply a name to their group and compete against other similar cohorts, so the friendship precedes any formal gang membership: “The one friend became a gangster and then his friend became a gangster, as they grew up,” said a junior HL gang member in Manenberg. The defensive motivation was well-illustrated by one youth interviewed:

You are not a gangster but you know gangsters. They tell you, ‘If anyone messes with you then you just come and call us.’ Now you come – he messes with me and I call them and I go to him, ‘You told me that I can come to you for help and all this.’ He is a gangster – now they go to him and it is a whole fight. When the fight is over they tell me, ‘We stood up for you’, now you must go with him. That is how it starts.
And Manenberg is an area where young men are likely to be “messed with”. Himmie was stabbed twice as an assumed gang member before he joined to protect himself. The proliferation of guns means that what would be fistfights in a less well-armed community become fire-fights in Manenberg. As Rodney recounts:

I was with Christian. We were 14 years old then. That was the time when we threw stones. I saw that wasn’t going to work, because we threw stones at them and they shot at us. So I decided to get a gun too and shoot back as well. You shoot at me and therefore I will shoot back at you.
The ‘arms race’ means that most young men feel the need to be armed. In the school survey, 17% of the boys said they had carried a gun for protection. Access to these guns was one motivation repeatedly expressed by the gangs members for joining. Thus, the threat of gang violence forces more boys into gangs, which fuels more violence. Like those in a nation under attack, Manenberg boys line up to enlist. The process of gang members offering favours or protection as a means of causing non-members to become indebted and dependent is paralleled in prison. Accounts of prisoners who were drawn into the numbers agree that the first approach is generally benevolent. New inmates are offered food, tobacco, cannabis, or protection by weathered convicts. Only later do they learn that they are expected to reciprocate, usually through sex.33 Another aspect of gang attraction was alluded to in the previous section: gangs perform the role of surrogate families. The desire to belong to a larger group may become especially acute during adolescence, and this desire may have biological roots. Coalition formation is an adolescent behaviour observed in primates, and it has been described as being at the root of much male violence.34 Like many all-male societies, from the Boy Scouts to the military, gangs play on the masculine tendency to develop in-group culture and lore. As one Elsie’s River gang member argued with regard to learning sabela, the language of the gangs:

The kids want to interact with this code language because it makes them also important. They think that they are important when they start to understand and start to use the codes – whatever else. When they get engaged in these activities it makes them feel important. Then they become committed to – get drawn more and more into the process.

33 34

Gear, S and K Ngubeni (2003), “Daai Ding: Sex, sexual violence, and coercion in men’s prisons”. Johannesburg: Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation. Wrangham, R and D Peterson (1997), “Demonic males: Apes and the origins of human violence”. London: Bloomsbury.


In addition to being the primary dealers of drugs in the townships, gang members are also the primary consumers.35 So addiction can be a very real factor in drawing members into the group and keeping them there. While none of the gang members described themselves as addicts, they did describe numerous drug experiences, and at least one had clear Mandrax stains on the web of his hand. As one Manenberg HL said, referring to the gang ‘salary’, “Some people use all of their wages on drugs”. Aside from physical dependence, the lifestyle itself has an addictive quality, especially when contrasted with the aridity of daily life in the Cape Flats:

The kids get used to alcohol and drugs and smoking and stuff. In that way they start identifying with the [gang] – so they are not necessarily forced, but … they slowly get involved. They get used to the kinds of drugs that are being used. When there is gang fighting or activity taking place – they want to show that they also want to be part of the action. - Senior 26 American, Elsie’s River
Simple hunger can bring young people to the yards of gang leaders, who stand as oases of affluence in a desert of deprivation.

Another way of kids getting involved is they might not necessarily smoke or drink but their parents can’t afford to provide for them. So if they go to the yard of the gang leader – there will always be food and they assist with selling the new designer drugs or whatever is sold at that particular place. They get provided for. They can ride in nice cars and so on. In that way they are satisfied and they can support their family with some income. If they want to, but mostly for themselves. They buy takkies – associate with the gang. Leading a good life. - Senior 26 American, Elsie’s River
Extended kinship structures mean that neglected children may not have to look far to find the support they need:

You see some houses is like this – mother and father is drinking. Mother is at home and father is working. During the day mother is cooking the food and mother is drinking. Tonight daddy is coming home and he is also a little bit tipsy. Now an argument occurs between the two of them, because both of them are drunk. The husband wants to know why are you drunk and the wife wants to know why are you drunk? Now the child is in the middle. He doesn’t know what goes on. He doesn’t get any love from the parents. He don’t get any learning – he just hear every night swear words. Then he reckon, ‘I will go out.’ Uncle Sydney’s house is all right. Uncle Sydney is a big gangster, but uncle Sydney is all right. I can always get a slice of bread there. ‘Go to the shop for me,’ – now I am getting into that. - Elder community member, Manenberg
So while motivations may initially be defensive, the gang does offer hospitality that may be found nowhere else, including in the home. Like Peter Pan’s Lost Boys, the Cape Flats youth have found a way of providing for themselves.


Standing, A (2003), “The social contradictions of organised crime on the Cape Flats”. ISS Paper No 74. Pretoria: ISS.


The process of initiation seems to differ between gangs. The Manenberg HLs interviewed described a rather informal admissions process, during which the potential new member was questioned by higher-ups about his willingness to betray the gang. Once accepted, the member was armed immediately, and expected to fight at the front lines in order to prove himself. One gang member said he was armed even before he joined, because of his stated intent to kill rival gangsters. The looseness of this process may be due to the need for new members in the HLs. The 26 Americans in Elsie’s River seem to have an extended period of observation and mentorship before full membership is granted.

First you must be a soldier. First you must learn the rules from the Americans. You mustn’t talk out. You mustn’t speak with other people. If you speak then you must speak in his language. Not in language that I can hear you. Then he is speaking his code language. ‘Salute’, ‘horsh’ and things like that. After that – they make you a mark. They make you a tattoo – that I can see your heart is right. You can stand … if you haven’t got a chappie then your heart says, ‘No, I am scared’. - Senior Elsie’s River 26 American
However, other members suggested that deployment may be immediate:

As soon as he has his chappie he has to do whatever they plan in the camp. He will get a command and he has to do what is said to him. They will send him out. Once you have your mark you must carry out the instructions of the camp – of the group outside and the orders of the group and if you don’t participate then you can be punished for your non-participation.
Once inside, it can be extremely difficult to get out. The Manenberg Hard Livings interviewed said members could leave voluntarily so long as they did not join another gang. Those who wanted to work regular jobs but did not renounce gang membership would be expected to share their wealth with their gang brothers, however. A senior Elsie’s River 26 Americans gang member had a different view, “You can never leave. If you leave you die. That is the dead end.” This position may be linked to their affiliation with numbers gang membership, which is seen as a permanent alignment. The 26s went on to explain that members who wanted to work jobs could do so but that they would be required to pay ‘protection money’ to the gang. Failure to do so would result in the gang withdrawing protection, leaving the working member vulnerable to revenge killing by the opposing gangs. The process of tattooing also locks members in for life. The purpose of the ‘chappies’ is to indelibly mark the individual as a gang member and as a member of a specific faction. Community members are very familiar with gang tattoos, and it can be difficult to get a job or maintain any semblance of a mainstream life once marked as a gang member. One 26 illustrated the limitations of bearing ‘chappies’:

If you have stress – you have five children – and you are a gangster – you cannot walk anywhere. By Epping you will go to look for work there – there are 28 gangs – you can’t go there. You go by Bellville – there are also 28s. Round the Western Cape are 26, 27 and 28. If you have a mark and if you walk in the wrong place, then you die without speaking. Only for that mark on your body. - Senior 26 American, Elsie’s River

In prison, being heavily tattooed further signifies a rejection of life outside prison walls and a commitment to life inside. Those who do not want to be released are immeasurably more powerful than those who hope for freedom, because they can act with impunity.

Current Involvement
The Manenberg HLs interviewed all described themselves as ‘soldiers’ or ‘hit men’ ( laksman ). Their greatest challenge seemed to be making ends meet and avoiding boredom. Since some of the wind had been taken from the HLs’ sails with the decline of the relative importance of the gang in the area, perhaps due to a leadership crisis, they seemed to be responsible for organising their own time, a task for which they were ill-equipped. As a junior HL gang member from Manenberg explained, “We get up, wash - we stand on the corner.” The youngest of the members interviewed, Himmie, was responsible for selling cannabis, but the others appeared to be part of a general pool of soldiers presently unneeded. They were left to their own devices. As discussed above, they initially claimed to be paid R1000 a month, but later conceded that this payment was only for times of full-time engagement. At present, they seemed to have been, for the most part, retrenched. If they were industrious enough to set up criminal activity of some sort, they would be equipped by the gang with guns, cars, and accomplices. Otherwise they remained idle. When asked how they got by, they answered: “we go to other areas and burgle there,” or “we might do a small paint job somewhere” … “or clean someone’s yard.” They also explained how they could go to other, more active, gang members when they needed money, such as the HLs dealing drugs in Seapoint (in the city of Cape Town proper). Of course, they were expected to be on-call to defend the turf or the honour of the gang. They were expected to attend the weekly meetings and perform the Sunday visits to the prisons. Failure to abide by the rules and directives of the gang would result in discipline, usually physical, such as being publicly beaten at the weekly meeting. The Elsie’s River 26s, on the other hand, seemed fully engaged in the drug trade, about which they were not eager to talk.

Armed Violence
Getting started The young men all explained that they were armed immediately upon joining the gang, and their narratives suggest that a major motivation for joining was to gain access to firearms. For most of them, this meant they began shooting at, and being shot at by, other people around the age of 13, sometimes even before they were formally admitted to the gang. In response to the question “how old do you have to be before you can become a soldier, before they can trust you with a gun?”, one gang members said, “everybody starts – doesn’t matter what the age is”. Another confirmed this opinion, stating that “as soon as you are a gang member, because you are out there all the time.” The degree of firearms training seems to vary quite a bit between groups and between individuals. One of the Manenberg interview subjects claimed to have trained another one, while others said they received no training. They said they read library books to learn more about the guns they had been issued. The 26 Americans, though, claimed to have been formally trained shooting at mannequins.

For the Manenberg HLs, the guns were the property of the gang, on loan to the members for use in gang activities and other crime. They had to be signed for, and loss of a weapon had harsh consequences. The central stash of firearms was shifted from safe house to safe house to avoid detection by the police. As one member recalled, “It is a bag this high – full of guns.” Asking about favourite guns elicits a flood of knowledgeable chatter. Semi-automatic 9mm and .44 calibre pistols are preferred, with extended magazines (‘16 shooters’). Glocks were mentioned as a glamour gun. While the members claimed that fully automatic weapons were available, they were not preferred because of their bulk and because they cannot be easily concealed. An additional factor may be cultural: the role models of the gangsters are American movie characters who use handguns, not military weapons. One Manenberg HL described what happened when he was offered a grenade:

I was standing there and a guy came to me with a bomb. He wanted to throw it in a house – I told him not to be stupid – he should throw it in an empty field.
The Manenberg HLs described a technique in which three gunmen fire rapidly in sequence, with each reloading as the other takes over, to imitate full auto fire. This technique was used during drive-bys and other attacks on homes. Female gang members confine themselves to stabbing one another, as Faroes, who was trained in firearms use by her boyfriend, explained:

Yes, we only carry knives, maybe we’ll have brick gang fights and backpacks gang fights and knife gang fights, but we never went to the limit of guns. Because a girl is not supposed to wear a gun … I know how to use a gun, but I don’t have a heart to kill somebody … I stabbed them in a place where I knew I couldn’t kill them … Because I was learned that as well, you never try to kill a person, you always try to avoid to kill a person.

Getting shot
When the gang members were asked “how many people do you know that have been shot?,” the answer was a hyperbolic “more than 100 people.” All but one of the gang members interviewed had been shot at least once, some multiple times. When asked about these experiences, shirts get pulled up and stories roll. One focus group member who did not participate in one-on-one interviews had been shot in the head and presently suffers from difficulties speaking and walking. Rodney had lost his employment as a roofer after nearly a year on the job when he was shot by rival Americans. The bullet entered his abdomen and exited through his buttock. He has a long abdominal surgical scar to prove it. Bekkies was shot in the abdomen. Himmie has been shot twice in his 17 years: once in his abdomen and once in the finger, nearly losing the latter. Chris has only been grazed once, but then he has been active in gun violence for the shortest period of time. Boobie, at 24, has been shot three times, in the abdomen (with attendant surgical scar), in the shin, and someplace else. Faroes has been shot twice, stabbed, gang raped to the point of causing internal damage, hit on the head with a pipe, and beaten on multiple occasions. Millie has also been shot, leaving only Tante, probably the most violent of the gangsters interviewed, as the only one untouched. This may be due in part to the fact that he has spent seven of his 26 years in prison.

Shooting others
The youngest members are expected to prove themselves on the “field of battle”, as the gangsters describe it. Respect can only be gained through the taking of blood. In open combat, the youngest members are deployed to the front lines, and so are exposed to lethal violence at a very young age. “I was 13 when I shot my first man – he was innocent,” recounted a junior HL member in Manenberg. “He was on his way to report to the enemy – so I shot him. He was fat.” Not all gang members interviewed were asked if they had ever shot anyone else. Depending on the evaluation of the interviewer, some were deemed too sensitive to be asked about what was surely a painful experience. Only the two toughest gave detailed narratives about the experience of killing another human being. Bekkies witnessed his brother being shot to death by members of his own gang at the age of nine, and his family had to flee the area of Pontyville to Manenberg in order to avoid further repercussions. He joined the HLs at the age of 13 to get a gun to extract revenge. The two men who killed his brother were jailed, but he managed to kill one of their brothers. Now he says he shoots for the legs in a gunfight, attempting only to wound or cripple rival gangsters. If told to kill by a senior gangster, he says he will question the reasons why the victim must die. He says senior gang members often finish off the wounded left by the kids in the front lines. Tante recalled graphically the many deaths he has caused, including killing four 28s in the last gang war in the area. He is currently being charged after cutting out another man’s eye. The man allegedly stole his cell phone. Table 3 below summarises the number of times the gang members have been arrested and the number of times they have been shot.

Going to prison
Rodney said he has been incarcerated on four occasions. The first was an attempted murder charge that he said was actually someone else’s crime. He lied about his age in order to get into adult prison, because he said the juvenile facilities are more dangerous. He said this is because, being underage, the kids can do anything they like in custody and get away with it. The case was eventually withdrawn. The second, third, and fourth times were multiple arrests for shooting a guy in the legs in a shebeen, a punishment for informing on the gang, a crime he admits he committed. Bekkies has spent two terms in prison: two and a half years for theft and six months on a robbery of cell phone case that was withdrawn. Asked whether his gang could have saved him from spending over two years in for theft, and he said yes, but that they will sometimes let members stay in to teach them a lesson. Himmie has served a few short prison terms. One was for attempted murder after he went to Belhar to help out HLs in a gang war there. The guy he was with shot a rival gangster from their car, and so Himmie also began shooting. The two hid their guns but were caught by police due to their clothing. The charge was later withdrawn after the rival gangster was approached and spoken to, so he only served two bouts of six months and 1.5 months in the Bonnietown Reform School. He was also caught with stolen car speakers and so was arrested for car breaking, serving brief stints in Pollsmoor and Wooster Reform School. He has also been arrested on a number of petty offences, such as public drunkenness and possession of cannabis, for which he received a fine.

Chris has been incarcerated four times, for robbery, attempted murder, and attempted rape. He spent a total of about two years in Pollsmoor on the attempted murder and has a five-year suspended sentence for the attempted rape. Boobie was jailed for two murders, three attempts, a rape, and possession of Mandrax. He served three years on one of the murders. Millie spent one year and seven months in jail for armed robbery. Tante served seven years of a 10-year sentence for attempted murder, armed robbery, possession of an unlicensed gun, and possession of ammunition. He is currently being charged because he cut out another man’s eye.

Table 3: Times shot and times jailed

Lord of the Flies
There was widespread consensus that the younger gangsters were more violent than their elders, and that over the years gang involvement had become an increasingly violent activity. As one senior 26 American gang member from Elsie’s River puts it, “Today the young kids overpower the old gangsters.” According to an elder community member from Manenberg: “I used to be a gangster. This lady know me as well as that man. I have never cursed any of them or their wives or children. I took care of them.” Many respondents blame this on the media and popular culture.

The violence is coming from our youths. I was born in 1964. I was 26 or 27 years before I heard a gun in my property where I stay. My son is now 14 years old. From one year old, growing up, he was brought up with guns. By the age of 7, children today know how to remove a magazine. Because many of the shops, the toy shops, they make toy guns like this. Then they learn the kids – here is the safety. Here is the magnum. If the kid finds any gun he can use it. That is why the violence is coming in our community. - Senior 26 American, Elsie’s River
The proliferation of real guns is also blamed for the increasing violence.

People used to use knives. In the old days they only used pangas [large knife]. The violence changed, because the technology changed. People see something and they follow it. - Senior 26 American, Elsie’s Rive

Ironically, many community members and even the older gang members themselves suggested that a lack of violence was behind this outbreak – the decline of corporal punishment:

Children have rights now and the kids are using their rights in the wrong sense – in the sense that they say to their parents that they can’t hit them and so on and play on their rights and also threaten the parents by saying – look – they threaten the parents as well. So the parents are helpless in the situation to really resolve the issues, because of the conditions within the family and in society. - Senior 26 American, Elsie’s River It is like this – the teachers learn the children don’t let the big people abuse you. Now I am the parent. You did something wrong, but now he say you are abusing me. Now the school has welfare ladies and so. I am going to tell the welfare my mommy abused me or my daddy abuse me, but they don’t know in what way. Now the police come and knock on the door. The child said you abused him. Now it is a court case. They don’t take your word – they are taking the child’s word. - Elder community member, Manenberg
Other elder community members are not allowed to enforce local norms.

Before – when we were kids you can’t walk with a cigarette in the street. If a big man or woman comes by – he will give you a smack. You can’t go home and say ‘Aunty Posie hit me’. Then your father and mother is hitting you back. Now you see 10 year old children walking with long cigarettes. It looks so stupid. - Elder community member, Manenberg
Teachers are no longer allowed to cane.

At school, the teachers are not allowed to hit the children anymore. Corporal punishment is out. We lived through those years and it wasn’t something that the teacher was cruel – giving you a whack or two – it was keeping you in line. In those days you can’t go to your parents and tell them ‘You know what teacher did to me today?’. Oh my word – that is the last thing you must do. Your mother is not going to ask you what did teacher – you are going to hear it. Today even parents can’t beat their children. It is democracy. It is a bad thing, because the parents are scared. The parents are scared to beat their children. Because the child will turn around and lay a charge against them. - Elder community member, Manenberg
While many advocated a return to corporal punishment, it would seem that their real concern is the loss of respect, community cohesion, and cultural norms that they see as attendant to the imposition of Western norms by the black government. Under apartheid, communities were encouraged to be culturally conservative, but the revolution of democracy has opened everything up for debate, and the youth have been encouraged to engage in this debate. In this period of cultural ‘structural adjustment’, nostalgia for a past that probably never existed runs strong.

Future Perspectives
The joys of gang membership have also declined, according to some, and many of the gang members expressed an interest in moving on. Three out of the eight gangsters interviewed said they did not want to, or could not, leave the gang, but the other five said they would leave if they could find a good job. According to the gangsters, employment is the answer – it does not appear that many of them are making much money at gang work. As Boobie observed, “Being a gangster is not a benefit anymore.”

Apparently, it paid more in the past. He said the top guys get all the money and guys at his level get nothing. This dip in gang momentum suggests an opportunity for targeted work programmes or possibly national youth service. Expectations are not high – most were looking for trade-level jobs at the most. With their highest ‘salary’ being R1000 (or about US$150) a month, it should not be difficult to provide more attractive alternatives. Once the core of experienced gang members is eroded, recruitment of a new workforce would be difficult for the higher-ups. But neither of the 26 Americans expressed an interest in leaving, which may be due in part to their prison gang ethos and part to the fact that they appeared to be making more money. All those who wanted to leave associated this with a move from the area. Since remaining in gang territory would leave them exposed to extortion of protection money and/or retaliatory violence from rival gang members, a programme of resettlement associated with job opportunities could go a long way. If indeed the problem lies with the pattern of dense and stable resettlement, spreading the population out a bit could be of use. If, on the other hand, the issue is cultural, the promotion of assimilation could address this issue. Since in Manenberg money is not currently much of an incentive for staying involved, most of the HLs would probably opt for any alternative productive or entertaining activity. As one community member suggested, “If they had TV games, they would stay inside.” This suggestion is not as ridiculous as it sounds, as indolence on the street corners is tied by everyone to the genesis of gangs. There would appear to be potential for sports and cultural alternatives to gangsterism, as many have argued. As Faroes suggests:

If the government had to come to our community, Manenberg, there’s so much talent in our community. Damn, I don’t want to brag or anything, but you must hear me sing and perform, then you will see there’s talent in Manenberg. Those gangsters they know how to dance, they can play soccer, they’re good soccer stars, they can do anything, they can sing, they can dance.
Older gangsters who had left the gangs argued that getting married and settling down was the answer: Q: What happened to the nice time kids? A: We are getting old. Q: How come the gang didn’t continue on? A: We all got married. We got married. Because of our commitment, we left it. Q: The whole gang did that? A: The whole gang did it. Again, while it sounds a bit unorthodox, marrying off dangerous men is a technique that has been tried with some success. When the PLO wanted to de-commission Black September, a brigade that held hostage the Israeli Olympic team at the 1972 Munich Games, because they were too dangerous to maintain during peace time, they held a mixer and married them off. When they attempted to resurrect the unit when the political tide turned, none of the old members were interested anymore. But while allowing old members to move on is one matter, reducing gang uptake is another. Making the gangs a less attractive alternative is about changing deep social conditions. Part of this drive must be about addressing the issues of drugs and alcohol in the community. The loss of norms and respect are tied to drugs:

It is different now. They don’t respect you. Because of the need to smoke – that is their respect – the drugs have changed that. The drugs have changed their attitude. - Elder community member, Manenberg
And there is little hope that drugs can be removed from the community:

There is one thing that won’t stop in Mannenburg. The crime will maybe stop – like so-so – the drugs – that is the thing I think will never stop. There is always drugs. - Community youth, Manenberg
But targeted treatment and rehabilitation, as well as prevention work in the schools, could pay dividends in violence prevention in a number of ways: • • • • by reducing the profitability of drug markets and the incentives for associated competitive violence; by reducing violence associated with the dis-inhibitive effects of drugs and alcohol; by reducing acquisitive crime perpetrated by addicts, in which violence may be used instrumentally; by reducing other market related forms of violence, such as violence associated with the collection of debts or in retaliation for betrayal.

With regard to other forms of social crime prevention, one way to ensure a decline in the power of gangs is to provide safety nets other than those used by gang members to lure new members in. As one community member suggested:

The easiest way for us now is those little house shops. Now they give us bread till Friday. Then Friday – we get a R3 bread – that is the cheapest. Whole week I am taking a R3 bread and at the end of the week I must see that I get the R30 to pay that people back. For next week again. So that help us not to go to the gangsters to ask them. The little houses shops are supplying us with food. - Elder community member, Manenberg
Thus, efforts to make Manenberg and other Cape Flats communities more socially and economically sound could make them more resilient to shocks and better able to collectively resist the temptations of gangsterism.



South African Public Policy
South Africa has no national policy on gang or youth violence issues. It does have a National Crime Prevention Strategy (NCPS), issued in 1996. This policy document prioritises ‘violence associated with inter-group conflict,’ but quite pointedly does not make reference to gang issues, discussing instead political violence and conflict related to the informal minibus taxi industry. It also prioritises “gender violence and crimes against children,” but the focus of this priority is clearly domestic and sexual crimes. While child and youth involvement in organised armed violence could fall under either heading, it seems that the issue was not sufficiently topical in 1996 to receive special recognition.

In any case, the continued relevance of the NCPS today is questionable. Though the present government continues to cite the NCPS as though it is active policy, there has been a change in political administrations since the time it was issued, and a consequent shift to a more law enforcement-based approach to the national crime problem. Many of the recommendations of the NCPS (and the subsequent White Paper on Safety and Security of 1998) have never been given much attention,36 and after the 1999 elections the body that created the strategy was dramatically downsized and sidelined. On the youth side, a National Youth Commission was established in the office of the Presidency in 1996 and tasked with creating a National Youth Policy. The outputs of this agency have been minimal, however, and the National Youth Policy has not yet been produced. It is therefore not clear whether youth participation in organised armed violence will be discussed in the final product. An innovative Child Justice Bill is set to be passed by Parliament in the near future, and this document probably represents most fairly the government’s work in tackling this issue. This bill, which has been in development for many years, makes provision for diversion for youthful offenders, among other things. As a piece of legislation that has not yet been passed, however, the impact this law will have on youth violence remains to be seen. As a result of this policy vacuum, the burden of dealing with the issue of gangs and youth violence has been shifted to civil society. There are presently a number of NGOs and volunteer forums that work in the areas of community conflict mediation, child justice, rehabilitation, offender reintegration, and related areas, often funded by foreign donors and mostly working in relative isolation. These efforts will be discussed in more detail below in the “Best Practice Case Studies” section.

Best Practice Case Studies
Given the diversity of relevant options, it is difficult to select the most relevant ‘better practice’ exemplars from South Africa for international comparison. In addition, South Africa has been host to myriad foreign–funded, acronym-sporting, ‘pilot’ interventions aimed at the country’s notorious violence problem over the years, many of which claimed remarkable successes, according to unpublished internal evaluations, but which nonetheless died when funding dried up. The selection of case studies was therefore based less on any kind of objective assessment of absolute quality than on durability, scale, and accessibility of credible indicators of success. The following case studies are based on the external evaluator’s reports. Case study 1: National Peace Accord Trust ‘Ecotherapy’ The National Peace Accord was an agreement spearheaded by faith-based organisations to promote peace during the time of political transition. It was signed on 14 September 2001 by many of the major role-players in the transition, including political structures, security forces, and commercial and labour interests. Around this agreement support structures developed, which eventually resulted in the creation of the National Peace Accord Trust (NPAT), an organisation dedicated to addressing the psycho-social costs of the struggle for democracy. ‘Ecotherapy’ facilitation is one of eight programmes in which NPAT trains Restorative Community Workers (RCWs). It was originally designed to promote the psycho-social healing of former combatants in the struggle for democracy. These militarised youth were exposed to, and participated in, high levels of violence before 1994, but had been largely neglected since then. They were the classic de-commissioned child soldiers, trying to cope with the challenges of life after war, often through crime and substance abuse.


At the peak of its powers, the NCPS was seen as one of six pillars of the National Growth and Development Strategy, a far-sighted move that recognised the vital role safety plays in development. But in the end, short-range thinking won out, the Growth and Development Strategy was shelved in favour of the Growth, Employment, and Redistribution Strategy (GEAR), and, with the possible exception of victim support, most of social programmes envisaged by the NCPS never came to fruition. Today it requires considerable imagination to see the connection between current police practice and the ideas advanced in the NCPS.


This work is rooted in mental health methodologies rather than criminal rehabilitation. It is superficially similar to other wilderness-encounter programmes found in South Africa (such as Don Pinnock’s rites of passage work) and elsewhere, but contrary to many of these efforts, it uses the outdoors primarily as a setting for reflection, rather than as an obstacle course. NPAT defines ‘ecotherapy’ as “…an individual urban dweller or group venturing into wilderness with the intention of insight, growth and healing.” The outdoors offers a dramatic change in setting for urban-based youth, which could provide an opportunity for thinking outside the box, and for de-contextualised analysis of the self. While ecotherapy involves group work, it also contains periods of solitude. It is not considered a complete intervention in itself, but rather provides an opening for other, more sustained, forms of therapy and assistance to take root. It is seen as applicable to both perpetrators of violence and their victims. Groups are sometimes comprised of both well-adjusted and troubled youth. Participants are generally part of a pre-existing group receiving services from another organisation, of a similar age cohort. Groups may be between 12-20 participants, with young offender groups tending toward the lower end of this spectrum. Ages of participants range from as young as seven to the mid 20s, with most groups being comprised of participants of similar age. The ecotherapy ‘trail’ runs from between three and 14 days. No two trails are exactly the same, and the setting and content are adapted to suit participants. In general, however, the young people are taken to nearby wilderness areas to camp and reflect on the course their lives have taken. Group therapy and individual counselling take place in this context. Elements of symbolism and ritual are included, and a de-briefing is used to help participants make sense of the experience. The ecotherapy trails have undergone several academic evaluations, most pointedly a study that relocated 125 former participants and came to the following findings: • • • • • Participation in crime decreased from 83% of subjects before the trail to 19% at the time of the study. Overall, substance abuse decreased from 65% to 22%. Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder decreased from 97% of subjects to 30%. The number of subjects in permanent committed relationships increased from 49% to 70%. While none of the participants were employed at the time of the trail, 72% had found parttime, full-time, or self-employment.

Case study 2: Khulisa peer drug education and M.I.B. programme This case study combines two programmes of the same service provider, as neither completely satisfies the desired criteria. Khulisa is an independent non-governmental organisation aimed at the rehabilitation of youthful offenders. While they offer a range of services and programmes, only their Offender Drug Peer Counselling (ODPC) and Make it Better (MIB) programmes have been formally evaluated. Since, as has been discussed above, drugs are strongly linked to child involvement in organised armed violence in South Africa, the ODPC intervention is relevant. Interview subjects suggested that they were first introduced to drugs in prison, as an antidote to boredom in these overcrowded facilities. The drugs are controlled by prison gangs, and use of drugs effectively locks the young users into the gang structures for life. Efforts to liberate young inmates from drug use could impact on the extent of their involvement in organised armed violence, both inside and outside prison.

The problem with using ODPC as a case study as an example is that this programme was not tied specifically to violence or to the coloured population group. But another of Khulisa’s offerings, the MIB programme, has been piloted in the coloured gang area of Westbury, and so gives some insight into the problems of working in this community.

The vision of the Khulisa ODPC was to lay the groundwork for permanent rehabilitation facilities in prison. As with the NPAT, the means for achieving this lie in ‘training trainers’ by providing skills to peer drug educators. The idea is that these people will eventually drive their own programmes, achieving the non-governmental El Dorado of ‘sustainability’. Between April and December 2002, 18 youth inmates graduated as Drug Peer Counsellors. By February 2004, 12 remained, as three had dropped out and three had been transferred to other prisons. But an additional 18 are presently being trained, in the hopes of reaching all youth offenders in the prison with drug education and support groups. The initial group was drug tested once for cannabis, and only one out of 14 remaining at that time tested positive for the drug. Their impact on the broader prison community is less clear. More than half of the medium security, section B juvenile inmates at Polesmoor prison are apparently involved in the programme, which includes drug life skills based on the 12-step approach (such as coping with drug associated relationships, making amends for past wrongs, and so forth), drama presentations, peer counselling, and support groups. A total of 471 youth attended at least one of 260 support group sessions offered by the peer educators. The peer educators also provided drug awareness presentations to over 900 school children that visited the prison on field trips. The focus of the intervention, however, seems to be the counsellors themselves rather than the prison population as a whole. Only two of the 12 remaining peer educators indicated that they were not happy to be drug tested. Of the combined peer educator and trainee group, 71% felt that it is possible to change drug use in prison, and 89% felt the support groups contributed to the lives of inmates in a positive way.

MIB Westbury
In July 2003, the Westbury MIB programme began training 19 peer educators – eight completed this training. The remaining educators felt this high drop out rate was due to a number of reasons, but the underlying theme seemed to be that the work did not advance the financial interests of the participants. Among those that remained, the desire was expressed to remove the existing leadership. But one peer educator was so committed to the programme that he threatened to “take out” Khulisa if it “broke his heart” or “if they mess around with us.” One compared his dependency on the programme to that of his peers on the street. The training consisted of a leadership camp, morality development, public speaking instruction, training in conducting peer drug counselling, drama therapy, conflict resolution training, indigenous games, drumming, restorative justice training, and facilitation skills instruction. The remaining peer educators complained about the indigenous games (perhaps because they did not reflect their own cultural background) and the failure to deliver promised training on financial management and HIV/Aids. They also felt some of those that dropped out found the sessions ‘boring’. As with the prison programme, the emphasis seems to be on impacting the lives of the peer educators more than on measuring community impact. In terms of outputs, the programme claims to have reached 3,000 people, though exactly how is unclear. The peer educators have worked in at least two primary schools, even standing in for teachers who were absent, despite the fact that some members have not finished high school. In both schools, their work was warmly regarded.

As far as the remaining peer educators themselves are concerned, the programme has been extremely beneficial, although they had a number of minor complaints. Their chief concern is making the programme ‘sustainable’, i.e. finding long-term funding. Like their peers who left, these young people need to find permanent paying jobs, and as Khulisa is not likely to facilitate this, they need to move on to other things.

Recommendations for Possible State Interventions

There are a very wide range of possible state approaches to the issue of children and youth in organised armed violence. On the one hand, there are preventative programmes, and on the other there are reactive efforts, both of which can be focused on the individual or on the community level. There are also palliative programmes to deal with the harms caused by youth violence, such as victim assistance programmes. Some of these interventions are youth-specific, while others deal with the causes of violence or treatment of offenders more generally. Given the extreme youthfulness of the South African population and the increased likelihood of young people being involved in crime, any project aimed at addressing violence in this country is likely to be a de facto youth programme. On the prevention side, early intervention programmes for youth at risk could involve educational efforts, sports programmes, social work interventions, and even nutrition schemes. The national education policy itself, by increasing student retention and routing to vocational opportunities, could play a pivotal role. National fiscal policy is directly relevant insofar as it supports the creation of jobs, which allow passage into responsible adulthood. Finally, some credence must be given to crime prevention through law enforcement: the incapacitation of individual offenders and the disruption of markets that fuel violent conflict. Where preventative efforts have failed, interventions both within the criminal justice system and at community level can work toward future prevention. When children offend, it is essential that they be treated differently than adults. Diversion to non-custodial or treatment programmes can avoid the criminalising effect exposure to the correctional system can have. Outside of the system, youth involved in criminal activity, such as gang members, can be addressed without the coercive undertones of interventions after arrest. Finally, conflict mediation at the community level can address causes of violence and ongoing feuds. It seems the primary problem with most interventions is that they deal with the symptoms, rather than the causes, of violence. Most are highly focused on individuals, rather than circumstances under which these individuals operate. Individually focused programmes can produce impressive anecdotal results, but it would take a lot of them to truly turn the tide. While a large segment of some communities could probably use some psychotherapy, providing individual or small group counselling sessions of whatever stripe is a costly way of chipping away at a mountain with a teaspoon. There is surely some truth in the old saw that today’s victim is tomorrow’s perpetrator, but it is possible that too much of the effort is aimed at repairing damage already done, instead of changing the conditions that are generating harm in the community. While there are numerous programmes directed at ‘youth at risk’ rather than offenders, these are difficult to get right in areas where a sizable share of the young adult population fits this description. And while peer education is an exciting possibility for multiplying efforts, the primary concern of most young people from troubled communities is finding paid employment, which means that programme capacity is only sustained as long as its participants remain personally unfulfilled. These programmes are often marketed to the youth because they teach skills and serve as resume dressing, but there is a limited market for paid peer educators, and once the kids catch on to this, they feel betrayed. There is much scope for individual work in diversion, but the broader community requires urgent intervention. There seems to be a dearth of programmes aimed at transforming the social circumstances in which violence takes place, and a tendency to think of such efforts as long range plans wedded to the broader goals of social equity. This assumption, however well intended, is a polite way of relegating them to obscurity.

Social crime prevention need not be a long-term project. There are ways of addressing the environment that generates violence without first requiring that everyone first become educated, employed, and equal. This study has confirmed that there are a number of social factors that aggravate the violence that can be addressed in the short to medium term in a way that will hopefully reduce the number of community members who need trauma counselling in the first place. The first social factor is inadequate housing. People in the Cape Flats live piled on top of one another in decrepit buildings that they don’t own, hidden away in communities far from the city centre. Access to job opportunities, as well as things to do while unemployed, are restricted by this spatial separation, and the scope for starting a small business is limited when none of your neighbours have money to buy your stuff. It is little wonder that one of the primary goals of the young people interviewed in Manenberg is ‘get out of Manenberg’. Rather than trying to win them over to the task of uplifting the community, they should be assisted in attaining this goal. Building houses takes time, of course, but South Africa has as one of its many development goals the redistribution of land and the provision of housing for all. Funds have already been allocated for this, but delivery has been slow. Perhaps this could be speeded if priority were given to areas in social crisis, of which crime levels should be considered a prime indicator. If codes concerning the maximum capacity of council residences were enforced, the municipality would have huge numbers of displaced people to contend with. It is only by implicitly condoning conditions contrary to our own norms of health and safety that the present situation has been sustained as long as it has been. In addition, much well located inner-city space is presently under-utilised because it is being used to house prostitutes, drug-dealers, and illegal immigrants. This is less true in Cape Town than in other metro areas, but there is still scope for either the national or local authorities to seize the offending property, either via rates and codes violations or through the civil asset forfeiture legislation. These properties could be used to thin areas like Manenberg out a bit. Most importantly, the new residents would own the premises, and would have a stake in preventing them from becoming hellholes. Re-sale opportunities in central Cape Town would provide massive financial incentives for upgrading. The previous sections suggested that, ironically, the strong community cohesion in a place like Manenberg might actually be generating gangsterism. One of the prototypical criteria for releasing an inmate on probation or parole has always been ‘strong community ties’. But those trying to reform themselves typically complain of the pressures exerted on them by old friends who remain on the wrong side of the law, and they stress how even the expectations of the law abiding citizens seem to force them into the roles they have always held in the community. Perhaps the best way to uproot the entrenched conflicts is simply to scatter the combatants. So the lack of inner-city opportunities in Cape Town may not be a barrier after all. The second social fact is unemployment. Gangsterism is, if nothing else, a way of killing time. Its blood feuds and brotherhoods are infinitely more interesting than staring at the wallpaper, assuming you can see it past all your cousins and aunties. And in a country with scarce jobs for low-skilled workers, the prospects become even more dismal when there is a wide spread impression that people of your ethnic group are being systematically discriminated against in the name of repairing past injustices, of which your people were also a victim. This burden impacts even on the youngest gang members, who may see little point in staying in school when this has little chance of paying off in terms of employment, and who may ‘dis-invest’ in a social system where they feel their interests are not accommodated. Generating jobs is arguably the number one project of the government at present, so it is not as though this matter is not receiving attention. And admittedly, creating an economy that generates low-skill jobs is a tall order in an open global market with rivals like China. But there are two distinct aspects to this problem that could be addressed independently. One is not having any money, and one is not having anything to do when you wake up in the morning.

Manenberg has a high drop out rate despite the fact that there is nothing to do once you drop out. One factor influencing this decision is surely school fees. While a child dropping out of school may not add anything to the family kitty, dropping out does remove a household expense. This incentive must be removed. It is insane to pay kids to have children, and charge them to go to school. The free schooling promised at the time of the first national elections must finally be provided. And, insofar as it is possible, tertiary and vocational training aimed at generating needed job skills should be made an affordable alternative to robbery, burglary, and drug dealing. It is not as though brains are lacking in this community. The Western Cape and the Northern Cape, with their coloured majorities, have the highest ‘matric’ pass rates in the country (although this is calculated as a percentage of those who take the exam, not of all students entering the school). The lack of coloured participation in tertiary education may be directly linked to the idea that the effort and expense may mean nothing in a market where they remain ‘not black enough’. This too must change, and the message must be communicated clearly: previously disadvantaged minority groups will be treated on a par with members of the majority that holds power. The alternative is continued apartheid. Even where university does not result in a paying job, it does have the benefit of keeping young people occupied and outside their home communities during one of the most dangerous times of their lives: the 18-25 year period. Addressing the material needs of this community could be advanced considerably by waiving the ridiculously small rentals paid on the flats that they occupy. The total revenue generated in renting this substandard accommodation must be trivially small compared to the pressure suffered by those trying to generate a cash income while unemployed. For many, the government gives with one hand (via child care grants and old age pensions) and takes with the other (via rents and utilities). Subtract out the administrative costs, and what has the state actually gained? The third social fact is the proliferation of guns and alcohol. While neither of these elements causes violence, they certainly aggravate it. As material objects of licit commerce, guns and alcohol can be regulated, and their availability restricted. South Africa has what would strike many outside observers as a bizarre gun policy: licensed firearms can be carried concealed on the person of the owner. By simply restricting this right in certain violence-prone areas (without abridging the right to have a firearm in the home), many heat-of-the-moment street shootings could be avoided. For example, a new national gun law called the Firearms Control Act makes a provision for the Minister of Safety and Security to declare to certain premises – including schools, shebeens, government buildings, etc. – a Firearms Free Zone. It is a criminal offence to carry guns in a FFZ, punishable by five years in prison and 10 years in prison for allowing someone to enter a FFZ with a weapon (storing). Similarly, some basic enforcement on the sale and consumption of alcohol, as well as judicious zoning of licensed outlets, could make acquiring the drug inconvenient enough to impact total consumption. The above represent just a few possible interventions that could impact on the social conditions feeding violence in the Cape Flats. These ideas are clearly in need of greater elaboration and research. But the central point remains: it is possible to address the conditions that feed community conflict without waiting for utopian social transformation. Focusing instead on doctoring each damaged soul is a noble effort, but one that is unlikely to have lasting impact on the enduing problems.