Anneke Scheepers

Gangsterism grabs hold of girls

2017-07-14 11:34
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At around the age of 16 I was invited to a party by a girl that I’d never met before while I was hanging out in Ravensmead, Cape Town.

Luckily I didn’t go, but I later found out that the girl was a recruiter for gangsters and drug dealers. She would lure girls to parties where gangsters would abduct and rape them, in exchange for tik.

In recent years, it has become apparent that more and more women are becoming hardened gangsters themselves. While their senior male equivalents are called “Mdoda”, they are called “Ma’s” (mothers).

More generically, however, female gang affiliates often play a supporting role to their male counterparts such as concealing weapons or acting as informants. These girls and women are called “Babes”. That said, cases of women carrying out brutal assaults and attacks in the name of their gang are becoming all the more widespread.

Gangs are not a new problem and are becoming more entrenched as they offer a quick fix to disenfranchised youths. With money, clothes and a language of its own being on offer, the appeal is too much to resist for many young people in vulnerable communities. But there is price and for women and girls in gangs, it is high.

I attended primary school in Bellville South in Cape Town, where gang activity was rife. One day the school attended a workshop on gang violence. We were told about a girl who was expecting the baby with her gang affiliated boyfriend. She was tracked down by a rival gang and assaulted before they cut her baby out of her.

Rape and assault of gang affiliated women is prevalent especially at the hands of rival gangs but it doesn’t end there. Gang initiation for girls can involve being used for sex by existing gang members. Alternatively, their initiation sometimes involves carrying out violent assaults and robberies. If they refuse, they are punished.

As South Africans struggle to sustain themselves, the appeal of gangs is entrenching itself all the more. This illicit culture and economy has now been institutionalised and will take a dedicated effort on the part of the state to root out. Syndicated crime and localised warfare are corroding the rule of law in South Africa.

This problem draws our attention back to the chronic shortage of South African Police Service (SAPS) officers. This is a key reason as to why crime rates remain high. That crime is rife means it has room to become organised.

As citizens, we are all in agreement of how we will co-exist. To ensure order, we cannot protect ourselves but have the state in the form of the SAPS, who are responsible for protecting us. The state is therefore the only legitimate user of force.

Gangs are illegitimately using force and violence to pursue sub-interests at the expense of the broader society. Their illicit economic activity undermines the legitimate economy and relies heavily on violent turf wars which routinely sees the lives of young children being lost.

Should you ever attend a night vigil in Manenberg on the Cape Flats, you will see the true impact of this ravaging terror on the community. Without sufficient policing, these communities are left defenceless as young people join gangs in search of fraternity and money.

We don’t know the true extent of the gangsterism in South Africa, much less are we sure of how many women and girls are involved in gangs or gang-related activity.

In the absence of empirical numbers, our encounters with them and media reports are our primary indicators that we have a growing problem on our hands.

- Anneke Scheepers is a former Politics and Cultural Studies lecturer and is currently the DA's Gauteng Communications Manager. She writes in her personal capacity.

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Read more on:    cape town  |  gangs  |  women and children  |  gangsters
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