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'Blood in blood out': Activist Roegshanda Pascoe explains the cost of Cape gangs

As part of the Cape Argus Starfish Project, well-known Cape Flats community activist Roegshanda Pascoe shares her views on the problem of gangs and gangsterism. Picture: Neil Baynes/African News Agency

As part of the Cape Argus Starfish Project, well-known Cape Flats community activist Roegshanda Pascoe shares her views on the problem of gangs and gangsterism. Picture: Neil Baynes/African News Agency

Published May 24, 2021

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The Cape Argus recently launched its Starfish project which aims to help encourage young people to steer away from crime. The project is a platform for individuals and organisations to tell our readers what they do to empower the youth or to share their knowledge.

Well-known Cape Flats community activist Roegshanda Pascoe was asked about her views on the problem of gangs and gangsterism.

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Identifying the problems caused by gang violence...

Gang violence in communities is devastating, especially on family life. For the boy child it is extremely difficult. He can resist being pulled into gangs, but then must settle for being bullied.

At times, they join a gang out of revenge after a loved one is killed. Poverty and opportunity are other big factors. Gang violence results in people becoming prisoners in their own homes.

Eventually, children have neither freedom of movement nor can they enjoy the daily positive activities and experiences life has to offer. Our kids are ultimately forced to join street gangs associated with prison gangs and their respective so-called “numbers”.

Some kids also find a sense of belonging in the circle of gang members and bosses. Sadly, this is shortlived as all gang bosses have malicious intentions – the only purpose is to make money by selling drugs, illegal firearms, human trafficking, kidnapping, murder and corruption, just to name a few.

What gives rise to gangs?

Dysfunctionality, no positive social cohesion, and the lack of state entities to provide decent services. These create fertile soil for gangs to rise and prey on the fear and vulnerability of our people. It was initially reported that apartheid and poverty in our coloured communities gave rise to gangsterism, which is true.

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However, the apartheid-era gang were mostly established by prison gangs which wanted to make money selling drugs in their respective areas.

Policies and respect for the broader community were, however, in place in most areas as these gangsters feared the police.

Today, gang bosses thrive in organised crime, and to survive the game you must have SAPS members on your payroll. Over the past 20 years there have been several corrupt top-ranking SAPS members directly associated with prominent gang bosses. Ex-SAPS commissioner Jackie Selebe is an example.

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Gang violence in communities is devastating, especially on family life. For the boy child it is extremely difficult. Dated picture of a gang with their guns from 2015. Picture: Brenton Geach/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

What measures are applied by the police and the government to curb gangsterism? Are these working?

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There should be a cohesive multipronged approach to tackle the problems. It means family, community, education, health, social development and housing all have a role to play.

The judiciary, prison and parole system should focus on rehabilitation, so we can establish whether an offender can be returned to the community. Police have taken measures like establishing serious and violent crime units to address gangsterism on the Cape Flats, as well as establishing other units that focus on crimes, such as syndicate fraud and child protection.

The judiciary, prison and parole system should focus on rehabilitation, so we can establish whether an offender can be returned to the community. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency

Reliable Intelligence since 1986 indicated that several SAPS members were involved in corruption with gang bosses to bring their drugs and firearms into our province, hence the dissolving of several similar units over time, but not before several innocent people, witnesses, kids and the elderly were killed by gangsters who were fed information by the corrupt SAPS officials.

What can be done to prevent gangsterism?

Effective immediately, an independent community-driven organisations must be established. Extremely strict clearance levels must be the order of the day to ensure communities’ trust. The organisations should not be affiliated with one another but rather have the same goals – to stamp out corruption and gangsterism at provincial and national level.

Corrupt officials, as well as political bosses, must be arrested if evidence is obtained, even if it’s in the form of affidavits. The government and the private sector must play vital roles in funding these community initiatives.

Cape Flats activist Roegshanda Pascoe

Which areas in Cape Town are most affected by gangs?

The areas that have been created by the apartheid regime and where, even under a new dispensation, poverty is rife. Having to live below the breadline is a harsh reality for our people. It’s unbelievable how our people survived all these years. We’ve also seen some affluent areas face a rise in crime, but not as badly as poorer communities like Manenberg, Mitchells Plain, Delft, Elsies River, Kraaifontein, Hanover Park, Ocean View and Atlantis, to name a few.

What advice would you give to families where children are joining gangs?

Where I reside in Manenberg, I would accompany parents to the gang leader and warn him about recruiting the particular child but, to the child, there is nothing more than a motherly or fatherly approach. One cannot always blame parents because some children join gangs even though they have everything they need.

My advice to families is to do some self-reflection and try to identify what motivated that child to seek love, comfort and a feeling of belonging in such a toxic place. We can help the child return to school, mosque, church and so on. Let the child participate in sport and got to the library where possible.

My advice to the child: Do not do drugs or alcohol or even smoke cigarettes. Don’t ever join gangs as your life will be either short or you will end up in prison while the gang bosses, and the corrupt keep making money to the detriment of our poor communities. Do your best to invest in a lawful career. Work hard and pursue a career such as an attorney, a doctor or a teacher. Go into sport. The sky is the limit as soon as you focus on positive goals. Always give back to your community.

What is your advice for those in gangs?

Gangsterism is not a job you walk in and out of as you wish. In time, the gang comes back to recall you.

There are many who have changed their ways but paid a hefty price, either by their daughters or wives being raped or killed for their freedom from the gang.

It is never too late to repent even though there is “blood in blood out” – a gang slogan used worldwide. Many former gangsters have made a success of their lives, have careers and are blessed with beautiful families.

Should schools educate children about gangsterism?

Kids should be taught about gangsterism by their parents, so that the schools can focus on the curriculum.

* Roegshanda Pascoe is a well-known Cape Flats community activist.

** This piece from part of the Cape Argus’ “Starfish Project“.

Cape Argus

If the idea of this project resonates with you and you want to be a partner on this journey, the Cape Argus offers a platform for you or your organisation to tell your story. Join the Cape Argus Starfish Project by emailing your full name, address and contact details to [email protected]

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