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Cape Town - He is only 13 years old, but a young Manenberg boy already dreams of becoming a Hard Livings hitman. Since he joined the notorious gang three months ago, he has stopped going to school, spending every day on the streets sniffing glue and protecting his turf.
He is just one of many children across Cape Town who have joined gangs in search of money, respect and power. The police revealed on Monday that children as young as 14 were being arrested on charges of murder, attempted murder and unlawful possession of firearms.
Police spokesman Colonel Tembinkosi Kinana said that since the beginning of the year the police had arrested three 16-year-olds on charges of murder. Three 17-year-olds and one 15-year-old had been arrested for attempted murder.
The 13-year-old Manenberg boy told the Cape Argus on Monday that he had not killed anyone yet. Recently, the child gangster was given orders to kill two members of the Americans gang.
“I was told to shoot them because they had shot one of (us), but I haven’t done it yet. (The bosses) said they would give us money for killing them, but they didn’t say how much.”
He said he joined the gang in May after he was “jumped” by a gangster on the field near his home.
The attacker put a knife to his neck and robbed him of his new shoes.
“I got home and no one did anything about it, so I chose to get in the gangs. I kept looking for the attacker because I want revenge.”
The young gangster said the Hard Livings gang offered him the protection and gave him an identity.
“I know it’s not right, but I want respect. I haven’t got it yet, but I’m going to work harder until I get it.”
The boy said leaving the gang was no longer an option: “I don’t want to get out of it, when you become an HL you can’t change, they will hit me and take back their tattoo.”
Lieutenant-Colonel Desmond Lane at Hanover Park police station said that since May three children had been arrested for murder, four for attempted murder and eight for the possession of illegal firearms. Another 28 children had been arrested for drug possession.
Delft has also been experiencing a rise in child gangsterism and violence.
Captain FC van Wyk said the most problematic area was Voorbrug.
“The groups identified are mostly at Voorbrug High School and they call themselves the Terrible Josters, Young Terribles, Timber Barbies and Sexy Bitches.”
Van Wyk said the gangs recruited new members by offering them money, luxuries and protection.
In Bishop Lavis, community policing forum member Walton Absalon said the big gangs in the area had started recruiting children into their ranks since the beginning of last year.
According to Absalon, child gangsters had become more brazen as time went by, even conducting drive-by shootings from their bicycles.
“We need to steer these kids away from the gangs, and I believe we could do this if the government put a concerted effort into providing families with social workers and properly monitoring the situation.”
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