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Cape Town - Leaders of Manenberg’s main gangs, the Hard Livings and the Americans, have apologised for the trauma their battles have caused residents and have vowed to stop settling their differences through the barrel of a gun.
Manenberg has been in the grip of gang violence for some months, with the loss of several lives and the Western Cape Department of Education closing schools for two days after teachers demanded that it take action. Schools reopened on August 19 after the City of Cape Town deployed 71 metro police officers to patrol the schools.
On Thursday night, the rival gangs attended a peace meeting arranged by the Anglican Church and community group Proudly Manenberg.
“On behalf of the Americans and the HLs (Hard Livings) we as gangsters apologise to the community for the murders that have taken place,” said an Americans member known only as Chicken.
He told 100 people at a meeting at the Anglican Church that the rival gangs had discussed the violence.
“I told my brothers there are laaities (children) affected and this thing (gang violence) cannot continue. We all need peace. I grew up in Manenberg and people know me. This is not about me, the Americans or the Hard Livings. It is about the people of Manenberg,” said the Americans member.
His apology came after resident Melanie Manuel told the gangsters that promising to stop shooting was not enough.
“We will not let you get off so easily. Children have suffered and are suffering. People have been injured and children have seen these things happen,” she said.
“This community is traumatised. We feel you must hear the heartache of residents. You must remember this is a memory that will not go away. You must know how you hurt us.”
Another resident, Rosaline Boltman, was in tears as she spoke of a 13-year-old boy who was in hospital in a critical condition after being wounded in gang crossfire.
“His parents have lost hope. I’m pleading with you to stop. My desire is for the young men - I’m not going to call them gangsters - to go to hospital and see him,” Boltman said.
“His parents are crying. Please stop the violence.”
Chicken said his Americans gang and the Hard Livings agreed to communicate when there were differences.
“In gangs we have our own rules. You may not be pleased with it, but what we did the other day and yesterday (when they dealt peacefully with a minor dispute) is for the people of Manenberg.
“We are here now, not to please the HLs or the Americans, we are here to help the people of Manenberg.”
Proudly Manenberg leader Mario Wanza said gang leaders had been asked two weeks ago to bury the hatchet.
“On Sunday, the HLs said they were willing to talk and on Monday the Americans said they too were prepared.
“There were still sporadic incidents while the leaders were consulting their members. By Wednesday we as facilitators from the community met seven representatives each from the gangs.”
Wanza said Wednesday’s discussion was about how a fight over the theft of a cellphone could evolve into a bigger conflict.
Last night’s meeting ended in prayer, with members of both gangs holding hands and with their heads bowed.
Wanza said the peace undertaking would be followed by a request to the government to help address problems such as poverty and unemployment that fuelled gangsterism.