BOYS aged about 14 are most vulnerable to being recruited into gangs, and if interventions are left until they are midway through high school, it could be too late, warns an NGO.
Zain Nazier, youth co-ordinator for the New World Foundation in Lavender Hill, said the NGO ran several programmes that targeted primary and high school pupils.
Marius Blumel, the NGO’s programme co-ordinator, said targeting primary school pupils was “most crucial” in trying to save boys from recruitment.
Nazier said at that age many of the children had never been outside Lavender Hill. Their self-esteem and confidence were low.
They also often did not get enough attention from their parents.
Children who did badly at school often ended up on street corners, where the only role models were the gang members.
Community leader Llewellyn Jordaan said mainly boys were recruited. He said what made them more dangerous was that they did not bear the markings of their gang.
Provincial Community Police Forum board spokesman Faisal Abrahams confirmed that many recruits did not take their gang’s tattoos or wear distinctive clothing. Although their “bosses” knew who they were, many outsiders did not know of their activities.
Jordaan said this was a deliberate move to keep the element of surprise.
These recruits could carry out surveillance without drawing the attention of rivals. He said this meant family members might not know immediately if their children were involved in gang activities.
Although girls were not as vulnerable to gang recruitment, they were being sexually exploitated.
Jordaan said that recently a house had been invaded by drug dealers.
A young girl and her grandmother had been living in a council flat. Jordaan said drug pedlars gave the girl tik and slowly moved in to take control of the flat. None of the neighbours spoke up.
He said this was a common practice where young girls were fed drugs and used for sex by pedlars or gang members.
He said this was adding to the high rate of teenage pregnancies and dysfunctional families, as these girls often left their children in the care of family members.
Social Development MEC Albert Fritz said sport and recreational programmes alone would not save the youth from recruitment.
He said young people needed role models in the home.
“The absence of fathers or father figures plays a huge role in dysfunctional and anti-social behaviour among especially young boys,” said Fritz.