n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Social (re)organisation and identity in the 'Coloured' street gangs of South Africa

Volume 26, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



In South Africa, street gangs have become a significant challenge on various levels. In the cities of Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, street gangs have been at the centre of widespread violence and other crimes. The specific emphasis of this article is to understand the social (re)organisation of the street gang, and how this relates to the question of meaning and identity, with specific reference to the coloured street gangs of South Africa. The focus of the article relates to the perception that street gangs are a characteristic feature of the coloured population group that predominates communities such as those found in the Northern Areas of Port Elizabeth and the ghettoes and townships of the Cape Flats in Cape Town. Thus, this brings into sharp focus the notion that coloured identity and the associated meanings of this identity may influence the creation and endurance of these specific types of street gangs. The article elucidates the symbolic meanings of coloured identity and locates these within a social, historical and cultural context and attempts to link these meanings to the continuing search for identity among particularly coloured youth. Through exploring some of the existing literature on South African street gangs, the author argues that it is the same dynamics that have impacted on the meanings of coloured identity that are a contributing factor to the formation and continuation of coloured street gangs which have become a symbol of the search for a social, political and cultural identity for the coloured youth, a search inherited from the past.

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