For more than 60 years, street gangs have been a defining part of life in the so-called “coloured” communities of the Cape Flats area of Cape Town, South Africa.

“Coloured” was one of four expressions used by South Africa’s former apartheid regime to characterize citizens, along with “Black,” “White,” and “Indian.” The word refers to mixed-race people, usually of some combination of European, black, Khoisan, Malay, Malagasy, and South Indian heritage. In 1950, the Group Areas Act dismantled a mixed-race area in central Cape Town, relocating residents to racially designated sections of Cape Flats — the infamous “dumping grounds of apartheid.” The move brought together young men who had previously lived in different communities, creating a sudden competition for limited resources and territory that facilitated the growth of gangs.

Under apartheid, black youths who may have found meaning in gang activities instead became involved in the struggle for liberation, but the coloured community did not have this outlet. As of 2003, the homicide rate within the coloured population was the highest in South Africa, and the Western Cape province, which includes Cape Town, had the highest crime and homicide rates in the country.

Many Cape Flats residents feel there is a limited police presence in their community, and that officers in the area often accept bribes from gangs and/or tip gang members off when they receive complaints. Rampant alcoholism, meanwhile, can be traced to the nearby vineyards, which historically employed members of the coloured community, and to the practice of paying laborers partly in wine — fostering violence, dysfunctional families, and fetal alcohol syndrome.

Most gang members are initiated between the ages of 13 and 15, and are immediately armed with guns. Younger members are expected to assume the front lines in confrontations, to prove their mettle to senior members. For some, membership may last until the age of 40 or 50.

The distinction between the real street gangs and the schoolchildren who simply imitate gang behavior can be blurry, but a few “name” gangs include: the Americans, Yuru Cats the Junky Funky Kids, the Dixie Boys, the Hard Livings Kids, Mongrels, the Born Free Kids and the Corner Boys.

Many of these street gangs are aligned with South Africa’s prison gangs, which are known as “the numbers.” There are three numbers gangs, each of which was founded to serve a specialized duty within the prison system: the 26′s were charged with acquiring money, the 28′s dedicated themselves to improving conditions within the prisons and also believe in performing horrific acts as sodomy within the gang, rape is also done as an act of initiation at times, the 27s moderated disputes between the other two factions and is seen as the more blood hungry of the three gangs as blood plays a big role in their book of laws.

The command structure of the prison gangs is strictly hierarchical, like the military, whereas leadership of the street gangs is more informal. Street gang leaders tend to earn respect and status primarily through the strength of their personality, although this varies from gang to gang. The Hard Livings, for instance, operate by means of semi-democratic weekly meetings. Members show deference to the Leader family, but do not otherwise rely on formal promotions. The Americans, however are more closely aligned to the 26s prison gang and thus closely follow the 26s’ chain of command.

The gangs’ primary source of income is drug running, in particular Crack Cocaine(rock), Methamphetamine(tik) which is also closely associated with the prostitution trade. Armed violence also results from gang rivalries, and the easy availability of firearms can lead to deadly quarrels over girlfriends and perceived showings of disrespect. Indeed, gun violence is such an inescapable part of local life, many members say they are forced to join a gang for self-protection.

When reading different articles and gathering information of the harsh reality of this beautiful Province and speaking to both addicts and dealers on the flats I couldn’t help myself but to make people aware of the facts surrounding these social ills we sit with.

Week after week we hear news of young men losing their lives to gang violence on the Cape Flats and to many people its become a norm and just accepted as a way of life. For me speaking as a young man on the Cape Flats who deal with these ills on a daily basis I can say to the world that these statistics are far from normal statistics like this for e.g, the Western Province has the highest number of drug related crimes totaling a crazy 70588 for 2011!

So after all that, last night was Life changers 1st meeting for the year and an awesome turnout its been. Yes the bad is there and listening to the struggles of families, young men and woman’s personal battles I realize how personal this call is for us as a team at Life Changers.

As we enter into another year of assisting men and woman in changing their mind sets in order for them to achieve greater heights, lead lives of success and to receive what has been true about them before the foundation of the earth, that their lives has never been intended to be what it is and though it seems as if forgiveness from God is impossible, God never held anything against them anyway, if we can get people who come through our doors just to believe that truth and respond accordingly to what God places before them, which is a simple invitation to a whoooole new guilt free life. God just wants them to be reconciled back to HIM!

As Paul writes in Romans Ch 8 v 37 “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. (38) For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, (39) Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

So God may not like our deeds but He loves us sooooooo much and thank God that all of our righteousness is found in Christ and not in any of us!

Categories: Life Changers Blog