Within the city of Cape Town alone, the numbers of gang members are estimated to be in the tens of thousands. Young men join gangs while in their teens or early 20s for a sense of security and belonging but mostly to escape poverty.
South African Poverty
In a previous article we have explored the current statistics of poverty in South Africa, focusing especially on the amount of children living under the poverty line. And while the 56% statistic is horrifying, the fact that these underprivileged children go hungry at night is not the biggest fear and challenge that they face. South Africa has a large gang community with many active gangs situated in the Cape Town area, preying on children from poor communities with little or no familial ties.
Gang life is like a religion
As one 16-year-old member of the Thug Life gang puts it, “[g]ang life is like a religion to my family. My father and grandfather were in gangs and they have done time in jail – I will probably end up there as well. It is the way of life here; it is where you learn about respect and get status.”
Poverty and socio-economic distress
A correlation exists between poverty and socio-economic challenges and young children’s tendency to become part of a gang. Gangs symbolise the families that these children have never had and represents a sense of belonging, security and status. For many poor children violence is a way of life and a way to make a living amidst scant economic opportunities. They are not committing violence against others as a means to protect themselves, but as a means of acquiring financial gain in order to survive. Within the bad economic landscape, there are few options beyond starvation or illegal activity, cementing the children’s future as gangsters for life.
Gangs in the Cape Flats
The Cape Flats is an underprivileged area allocated during the Apartheid era and is an area that is infamous for its rife gangster activity. The area is often characterised by shootings, stabbings, drug abuse, sexual violence and gangsterism, making joining a gang a survival strategy for children living in poverty, however misguided.
Dreams to Reality provide support to the Vrygrond and Capricorn communities in Cape Town to try alleviate the economic strain many families face when having too many mouths to feed. We operate in the communities and provide children with the necessary educational support and stimulation to ensure that they are adequately equipped to escape the dangerous cycle of gangsterism and the circumstances that forces them to join gangs.