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Frustration at what they call a lack of policing and a loss of faith in the justice system are the main reasons for the spate of gang violence in the Western Cape, say two Gugulethu gangs.
However, some have also admitted that, for them, it is cool to be a gangster.
Twenty-four members of the Moscow and Gaza gangs - rivals in Section Three, Gugulethu - spoke to Weekend Argus in an exclusive interview about the gang wars. Most of them are in their teens.
They say they want the violence to end and claim to have made peace with each other, but they vowed to take matters into their own hands when authorities fail to prevail.
The gang members complained to Weekend Argus that many of their friends had been attacked - and some had died - without redress.
A Gaza member, who only identified himself as Sihle, said: “Kill before you’re killed. That’s my motto. I watched my friend die next to me and I’ve seen many others fighting for their lives after being attacked. I don’t want that to happen to me.”
Anovuyo Maliti, 18, also a Gaza member, said he had no faith in magistrates.
“When someone hurts you, you want them to get hurt as badly or even worse. Most of the time police do not follow through when crimes are reported. People are arrested for a day or two, then they’re out again. It’s better for us to address our problems ourselves.”
Mbulelo Malgas, 21, a Moscow member, agreed. He was arrested after he and his fellows stabbed a Gaza member to death.
“We were at a tavern when he walked past us. We egged each other on to go and shake him up for walking in our area when he knew he was our enemy. We chased after him and we all stabbed him. We didn’t mean to kill him.”
Malgas said that, if the justice system was efficient, he would have stayed in prison longer than he did.
“I was in Pollsmoor for a month. If someone had done what I did to my family or a friend I would have wanted that person to stay in prison for much longer.
“Even though I felt bad about killing him, I consoled myself by remembering that the system failed me too when he killed some of my friends.”
Malgas added that police needed to work harder.
“The fact that we grew up watching what we do now, means that police weren’t doing enough. We don’t see them much, and even when they patrol they don’t pay much attention to us. The most they’ll do is search us and drive past.
“What kids see now is that they can stab someone and nothing will happen to them, that’s why they aren’t scared to form gangs,” said Malgas.
Bathembu Sigidi, 16, joined the Gazas in 2007 when he was 11
. He said it was “cool” to be in a gang.
“It’s silly, but the violence has picked up because of the cliques that people start in the township. Some kids will notice that a group of friends have given themselves a group name and they will also form a group. That’s how the groups are formed and they become rivals merely because they do not belong to the same friendship group,” he said.
Sihle also stressed the need for townships to be equipped with recreational facilities to keep young people out of trouble.
“The drugs that some of us use also make us violent. If we could be part of serious sports teams that motivate us to do better with our lives, we would not have time to take drugs or get caught up in fights,” said Sihle. - Sunday Argus