“The best way to enter our business is to be born into it.” -The Mafia Manager
It is estimated that 150 000 people belong to 100 gangs on the Cape Flats. Some gangs date back to the 1940s.
Gangsterism is a global phenomenon. It includes groups’ formation to commit violence and crime and defend themselves physically against the violence of other groups. Gangsterism is often characterised as anti-social behaviour.
Gangs emerge from within communities themselves. This phenomenon has many root causes like socioeconomic conditions (unemployment, low-income employment, and poor living conditions), all leading to poverty and deprivation conditions.
‘Drugs are the main currency of gangs—peddling drugs is the most lucrative activity. But nightclubs, abalone poaching, robberies, shops, and garages are run by the kingpins, mainly to launder money. Gangsters have become the foot soldiers of a much more sophisticated underworld economy, engaging in serious and violent crime, money laundering, human trafficking, drugs peddling and arms smuggling.’ Leonard Ramatlakane.
What types of gangs are there?
1. The scavenger gang’s crimes and transgressions are usually not planned, and this group’s members are often low achievers or school dropouts.
2. Territorial gangs are well-organized, and gang members have initiation rites that separate them from non-members. Often, prospective members have to prove their loyalty to the group by fighting.
3. The corporate gangs are highly structured criminal conspiracies organised to sell drugs – teenagers as young as fourteen could become members. All gangs have names and recognisable symbols.
The poverty, misery, violence and lawlessness of cities led to the growth of many gangs. In particular, the numerous youth gangs or tsotsis reflected the instability of the urban African family. Parental control is mostly absent, as both parents are forced to work. Juvenile delinquency rates are incredibly high.
How do kids become involved in gangs?
When families become, dysfunctional and discordant many children choose to leave the family home, opting to spend their time on the streets where they are gradually drawn into gang-related and criminal activities.
When does a family become dysfunctional?
A family becomes dysfunctional when there is domestic violence, substance abuse, poor bonding between parents and children, delinquency or parental psychological problems present in the home. Other factors that can also cause dysfunction include the poor educational level of parents, low income, unwanted pregnancies, and parental violence history. Some families even live in communities where there are high levels of violence, poor service delivery, and high levels of substance abuse are the norm.
Such communities usually have a high unemployment rate, increased inequality and social exclusion, many fire-arms, gender inequality and discrimination, weak law enforcement and social norms that justify violence.
From what age are kids drawn into gangs?
In a school setting, learners who become easy recruits for gangsterism are those learners who are underachievers, poor learners or have language difficulties see themselves as losers in the academic environment. These children are not nurtured at home. They are often suffering emotional, physical and even sexual abuse in their homes. They witness violence and abusive relationships between parents from a young age.
Within schools, particularly in the Grade 4 year, the following behaviours become prevalent: poor academic performance, learning difficulties, truancy, and attrition antisocial behaviour due to low self-esteem.
They can be easily approached by a gang and be recruited into the organisations. Last (2001) explains this well – here they become “someone”, part of an organisation of kids just like themselves. They have a new “family” with whom they tend to spend more and more time. Teenagers are searching for a sense of security and comfort. These gang leaders recruit younger members who are unhappy and struggling. They lure them with the promise of fraternity and brotherhood, with money, drugs and girls. They are told that the worst that can happen to them if they commit a serious crime is two years in a juvenile facility, a small price to pay for belonging.
For example, a child witnesses his mother being abused by her partner. He is also exposed to harsh parenting, with corporal punishment used as a means of discipline. He seeks affirmation outside the home, gets lured into petty crime by the local gang, and drops out of school.
How do gangs pressure kids into becoming gang members?
- Peer pressure offer protection.
- Threaten the safety of friends or family members.
- Offer money for what appears to be simple activities.
- Challenge kids to take risks.
- Attend parties where gang-related activities are occurring.
- Family members already belong to a gang.
What are the consequences of gang involvement for a child?
- In trouble with the law
- Drop out of school – because of fear rival gang members will kill them.
- Withdrawal from family.
- The risk of injury is a “jump-in” by your gang.
- Drug trafficking/weapons.
- Involvement in “dirty-work.”
Children as young as 14 years old are being arrested for gang-related murder charges in the Western Cape Province of South Africa.
“You get chosen. They see your talent, and if they see you’re good looking, you’re clever, they’ll bring you in,” he says. “If you’re disadvantaged in life, the Mafias will come to you and help you. They’ll give you everything you want just for that short period.” says a 17-year-old gang member.
- Lose opportunity for education and employment.
- Spend time in jail or prison.
- Possibility of losing family and friends.
- Risk of personal injury.
- Risk your own family’s life.
- Endless amounts of threats, assaults and drive-by shootings.
What are the early warning signs that your child might be involved with gangs?
1. Graffiti is a clear marking of territorial boundaries, which serves as a warning and challenge to rival gangs. It is also used to communicate messages between gangs.
2. Youth hanging out around public parks, high schools, fast food stands, convenience stores, and other teenagers’ hangouts. Frequent use of public phone booths by people who receive calls there.
3. Increase in crime -Gang-related acts such as vandalism, assaults, burglaries, robberies, and even random drive-by shootings.