2011-12-15- MEC Dan Plato walking next to former Gang Boss "Lastig" in Lavender Hill. Picture Brenton Geach

Community Safety MEC Dan Plato says he will continue to meet gangsters despite warnings by the Western Cape Community Police Forum (CPF) board and residents of a gang-infested suburb who say his gang peace treaty has backfired.

CPF board chairman Hanif Loonat said Plato’s strategy was giving gangs the chance to re-establish.

Parents from areas in Hanover Park once considered neutral zones complain that their children are now being targeted by gangs looking to recruit them.

“We don’t negotiate with gangsters. All these deals are doing is buying time for the gangs to re-establish themselves,” said Loonat.

But Plato is adamant he wants to continue to meet gang leaders to dissuade them from their activities.

In November, Plato concluded a peace agreement between the Mongrels and Americans in Hanover Park after 28 people died during gang wars in October.

The ceasefire was mediated by the local CPF, Western Cape Community Outreach Programme and other leaders.

Peace treaties followed in Lavender Hill and Elsies River.

Plato was not directly involved with the negotiations.

On Tuesday, he said that in meeting gangsters he wanted to start at the bottom and work his way up.

Self-confessed former 28s gang member Ernest Solomon, known as Ernie Lastig, is a member of the community outreach programme.

In Lavender Hill in December, Solomon, in front of Plato, addressed the gangsters preparing to sign a peace accord.

But Loonat is unconvinced.

“I’ll believe in the peace treaty when the gangsters put their guns down on the table,” he said.

Loonat also took a swipe at the members of the community outreach programme, calling them has-beens who the new generation of gangsters didn’t take seriously.

Terms of the November agreement in Hanover Park included a ceasefire and free movement for everyone.

But this has enabled gangsters to start recruitment drives in parts of Hanover Park which were traditionally regarded as no-go zones for gangs, said residents.

Earlier this month the Cape Argus reported police and residents saying that since about December 26 there had been a number of gang-related shootings, one of them fatal.

“The peace treaty is still very stable,” said Plato at the time.

On Tuesday, Plato explained that the big hsmh bosses didn’t live in places such as Hanover Park and Lavender Hill.

Those who lived there were being used to do the “dirty work” of the high flyers, he said.

“When you speak to them individually, you find this is not the life they want. We can try to change their mindsets to stop selling drugs and killing.

“Must we as a government sit back and do nothing? It would be a grave injustice to not engage these people,” said Plato.

Ivan Waldeck, community outreach chairman, said they were still holding regular meetings with gang leaders in Hanover Park to maintain the peace.

Despite the criticism, Plato said progress was being made.

During a visit to Hanover Park on Tuesday, Plato announced that addressing unemployment among vulnerable youth was the next step in his plan to bring stability to the area.

Economic Development MEC Alan Winde agreed to help with career workshops in the area.

Meanwhile, a Hanover Park mother of two teenage boys said her life was in danger after she decided to take a stand against the gang recruitment drive in her block of flats.

For two weeks Marlene Geswind watched as gangsters sold drugs openly in Walvis Court and intimidated children as young as 13 in a bid to get them to join a gang.

Gangsters began by gathering in groups on the outskirts of the block of flats. To attract children they played music from cars, hosted braais and provided free alcohol and drugs, she said.

Some children were given between R50 and R100. Once the boys were intoxicated they were tattooed and claimed by the gang.

They were made to sell drugs, said Geswind.

“I couldn’t sit back and do nothing,” she said.

She went from door to door, calling on people to stand up against the gangsters, and started a petition.

Together with neighbours, she chased the gangsters from the block.

When I did that I knew my life

would be in danger. But I’m not doing this for me alone, it’s for all of our children.”

On Monday, gangsters sent a “we are looking for you” message to Geswind through her neighbours.

On Tuesday afternoon the area was quiet, but a group of boys huddled in the shade at a block of flats said young people were particularly vulnerable to the gangs.

The local swimming pool was off-limits to them.

“The Mongrels say the pool belongs to them. We can’t go anywhere without being threatened. So we just stay at home. The price is too high.”

A resident, who asked not to be named, said her 14-year-old brother was recruited two weeks ago, and arrested for drug possession two days later. He refuses to go back to school and lives with his gang bosses.

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