Gang project under fire
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Cape Town - Community organisations have slammed the Ceasefire operation as ineffective for failing to curb gang violence on the Cape Flats.
The project, based on a successful US programme, was launched as a pilot project in Hanover Park, Gugulethu and Manenberg in 2012, as an extension of the City of Cape Town’s Violence Prevention Through Urban Upgrade programme, before being extended in 2013 to other areas affected by gang violence.
But crime-fighters from various Cape Flats communities expressed their dismay at the Ceasefire operation in a report handed to the Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance (GCTCA).
The Community Action towards a Safer Environment (Case) released the report on Sunday after meeting with community crime-fighters from Manenberg, Hanover Park, Philippi, Ottery, Kensington, Facreton, Bonteheuwel, Stikland, Bishop Lavis and Mitchells Plain. Case founder and clinical psychologist Dr Lane Benjamin said the organisation’s findings were based on 15 years of social work in gang-infested areas on the Cape Flats.
Benjamin said the project was simply not working.
Benjamin said while the system appeared to work in the US, where it was formulated, it has failed in the province because Ceasefire members refuse to work with police. “In the US gangs operate to make money, but on the Cape Flats gangsterism is part of a culture.”
The province and City’s plan with Ceasefire involves recruiting “violence interrupters”, who have credibility with gangs and are often former gangsters.
Weldon Cameron, who runs a gang violence intervention programme in Hanover Park and has trained to become a Ceasefire violence interrupter, was forthright in his criticism of the project. “Ceasefire does not work on the Cape Flats. Often the former gangsters working in the programme revert to their old ways and their negotiation skills are a fruitless exercise as gang wars always resurface,” he said.
Benjamin said the implementation of Ceasefire should never have been be a “cut and paste” into the Cape Flats.
“Differences between the US and the Cape Flats should have been taken into account.”
GCTCA chairperson Philip Bam said it was the duty of state functionaries to protect the public. “If these functionaries become dysfunctional and they cannot fulfil their mandate to protect the people then essentially that is committing treason.
“We do not see gang violence ceasing. People are killed daily due to gang violence. The question we need to be asking is why is this happening in this province while gangsterism seems to be under control in other provinces,” Bam said.
Mayco member for Safety and Security Jean-Pierre Smith denied that Ceasefire was failing.
“We have just completed an assessment of the first three years of Ceasefire (in Hanover Park) which shows definitely that it does work.
“There has been a 31 percent reduction in murders compared to the period in the preceding years,” Smith said.
He explained that violence interrupters could never work with police because they would lose credibility among the high-risk gangsters and “would no doubt be killed very quickly”.
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