A full day community dialogue was facilitated by Africa Unite in partnership with the following organisations: Gugulethu Social Development, Bright Ideas, Sport and Recreation (City of Cape Town), Joint Safety Committee, Department of Community Safety, JL Zwane Centre, Safe Schools, Safe Schools WCED Central, Government Communication Information System, South African Police Services Ward 38 and local Councilors.
The mentioned stakeholders above assembled on 6 July 2012 at Athlone Stadium in Athlone to discuss the sustained violence perpetrated by gangs with the mind of brokering peace. The dialogue brought together 50 gang members selected from 5 conflicting gangs terrorizing the Gugulethu area for the past two years, resulting to the vandalism of property as well as 20 deaths.
The dialogue was opened by Mr. Luvuyo Zondani Councilor from Ward 38 who took the opportunity to describe the situation created in the communities by this gang conflict. Mrs. Marinki, a member of the Gugulethu community, spoke about the heartbreaking loss of her 18 year old son last year due to gang conflict. She begged the young people to desist from participating gangs. Her speech was followed by former gang member Thando Pikini, who informed the youth that crime does not pay.
After words of welcoming and the inspiring speeches from our partners, Africa Unite explained the purpose of the dialogue and what is expected of them. The dialogue began with the gangs dividing into four groups where they got a chance to discuss the following questions in depth.
The five gang leaders spent time discussing the following questions raised by Africa Unite:
1. In nature, why doesn’t a lion eat another lion?
2. What kind of community would you like to live in and see?
3. As leaders, why do you think young people join gangs?
4. What do you think can be done to stop gangs?
They reported their findings to the audience. The other gang members and the community members had the chance to ask clarifying questions and comment.
After the discussions, the following recommendations were agreed upon:
- The gang members now believe that gang violence does not have a place in Gugulethu or in South Africa at large. They want to find a more meaningful purpose in life while reaching out to those who continue to be involved. They will no longer stand idly by as other gang members and innocents are harmed and killed. To show their commitment to the peace deal, all gang members agreed to rebuild and repair houses that were burned down during the gang conflicts beginning on Nelson Mandela Day (18/7/2012).
- In order to strengthen their well being, the following capacity building initiatives were identified:
- Human Rights – Rights and Responsibilities
- Conflict Resolution
- Substance Abuse Programs
- Life Skills on Peer Pressure and Self Esteem
- Awareness on Gender Issues
- Five members of each gang were selected to join a new planning committee working to bring peace to the Gugulethu area.
- Most of the gang members range from the age of 13 to 23. It was agreed that there was a need for them to return to school for the upcoming academic year. For those who are not qualified to go back to school, programs should be created to teach a marketable trade or skill to further their education outside the classroom.
- It was noted that many of the gang members had never left their communities resulting in low self esteem and confidence issues. It was proposed to construct more opportunities for the youth to socialize outside of their wards to expose them to other peoples and cultures.
- Avoid loitering on the corners which often leads to looting foreign nationals’ shops (xenophobia).
- In order to involve more gang members and the community at large about the peace efforts, the gangs proposed a larger gathering where local, provincial and national authorities will be present.
- Involve the South African Police Service to ensure that gang members who continue to resort to violence are punished under the full extent of the law.
- Creating and re-programming more facilities that offer sports and activities to combat the boredom that often leads to joining gangs and conflict situations.
- More research needs to be conducted to fully understand the multiplication of gangs in the township schools and communities.
- Councilor Luvuyo Zondani will take these recommendations to the Gugulethu Joint Safety Sub-Committee for further action and implementation.