n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Fighting gangsterism in South Africa : a contextual review of gang and anti-gang movements in the Western Cape

Volume 18, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



Gangsterism is a major contributor to crime in the Western Cape province of South Africa. The coloured communities from the townships around the greater Cape Town region, which are known as the Cape Flats, are the most severely affected. Gang movements started with the relocation of predominantly coloured, but also African, families from the inner city areas to the Cape Flats in the 1970s. The gangs flourished in the newly established residential areas where poor socio-economic living conditions prevailed and where social control over children and youth was absent. Several successful community initiatives were launched in this period to counter the growth of gangs in the townships. However, all these responses dissipated with the enforcement of state control in the townships as well as the imprisonment of youth political activists during the peak of the struggle in the late 1970s and 1980s. In the absence of organised community responses, gang activities flourished in the late 1980s and early 1990s, with disillusioned youth opting to take up gang membership in prisons and reformatory schools. From the mid-1990s various attempts were made by the community and State to counter gang activities. Most of these activities though focused on curbing crime, and did not take into account the psychosocial needs of youth at risk that may have drawn them to become gang members.

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