"Young people in a bleak and pitiless environment feel the pressure to join a gang to feel acknowledged and share in the excitement of brandishing guns and defiantly transgressing the law." Picture: Ian Landsberg/African News Agency
Young people in a bleak and pitiless environment feel the pressure to join a gang to feel acknowledged and share in the excitement of brandishing guns and defiantly transgressing the law. It is about having an identity, money and a sense of power.

As apartheid architects in the 1960s intensified the separation of people along racial lines and broke up settled and structured communities, they created fertile ground for unemployed and listless youth to become gangsters in the new localities on the outskirts of the city where policing was inadequate for the task at hand.

As gangs entrenched themselves, the drug connection became important in the criminal economy. Turf wars in the drug and taxi arena coupled with the abuse of narcotics and alcohol led to the murder rate in the city spiralling upward year on year.

Firstly, Parliament needs to relook at the Prevention of Organised Crime Act, 1998. In two decades Act 21 of 1998 has failed in achieving its objectives.

If this is done with all the knowledge acquired since the act was first promulgated, the police will have a better understanding of how to tackle the growing problem of organised crime.

Secondly, policing has to be adequate to the demands of the criminal hotspots. All three spheres of government will have to sit at the table and devise a plan that produces results. Finger pointing must give way to constructive and mature engagement. Every weak link in the chain has to be fixed.

Thirdly, the TVET colleges will have to be better capacitated to keep many more youngsters interested in acquiring marketable skills.

Fourthly, sports will have to feature more prominently in all of the areas where gangs operate. My motion to the council which was defeated asked for a programme of inter-sub-council fixtures. I hope that this matter will be revisited by the DA-led administration.

The city has marvellous stadiums which are underutilised. I say let sports provide the excitement that youth in hot spot areas crave.

Finally, let the economic transformation of the townships proceed at pace. They should no longer be the dormitories they were intended to be. They should become nodal points for economic growth.

A multifaceted approach is needed to create safer communities and draw youth away from gangster related activities and membership.

* Farouk Cassim, Cope.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

Cape Argus