Fearless ministers take on gangsterism on the Cape Flats

2016-12-23 22:34
Gloria Veale-Oliver. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

Gloria Veale-Oliver. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

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Cape Town - After being gang-raped at the age of 12 during a gang initiation, Gloria Veale-Oliver is fighting back – by helping young people turn their backs on gangsterism.

Through her Men and Women Uniting Against Darkness campaign, she and the organisations she works with have been able to help almost 20 young people leave the gangs to which they belonged.

While the former business woman turned minister now lives a long way from the Cape Flats where she grew up, she can be found most days standing in the heart of gang-ridden communities like Manenberg, bravely preaching to those involved in the lifestyle of bullets and bloodshed to end the violence.

And she is never afraid, Veale-Oliver insisted.

"Why should I be? God is on my side."

She is no stranger to seemingly impossible battles. 

Apartheid activist

When she was 12 years old and living in Mitchells Plain, she was drugged and gang-raped.

"I don't consider myself a victim," she said. "I want to use what happened to empower others and impact change. I have forgiven them - I won't let them have any power over me."

She spent three years in jail during apartheid for her role in ANC-related campaigns. Her first stint in prison was when she was only 15.

"We fought that battle and eventually we won. The war against gangsterism and social ills is also a serious one and not as impossible to solve as one might think," she said.

Before finding solutions, there needs to be an understanding of the root of the issue, Veale-Oliver explained.

"The problem starts in the mind. We came through an education system that taught us that we are inferior. That mindset is carried from generation to generation unless something is done to change it. People who were dumped in these communities want an alternative and we need to collaborate to find it."

Poverty, a lack of identity and a lack of father figures in the home also play a major role, she said.

'I don't believe in handouts'

The campaign, which works alongside other community-based organisations to improve the lives of people living in low-income areas, was launched last year and aims to offer an alternative to young people.

This is through initiatives to teach them skills to equip them to change their future, Veale-Oliver explained.

"I don't believe in handouts – it doesn't solve the problem or empower the other person. People need to be taught to sustain themselves," she said.

Her husband Eugene, a pastor, said community development is the only way to truly give power to the people.

Grassroots level organisations, such as groups of mothers and concerned citizens are already trying to turn their community around, but they need help, he insisted.

Recently the couple was approached by a group of mothers from Taking Back our Children, an organisation they work with. The women needed wood and other materials for a special project.

Collaboration essential

"They used it to make crosses and walked through the streets of Manenberg, stopping at the homes of gangsters and drug dealers to knock the crosses in front of their properties. Those crosses are still standing," he said.

"It's easy to complain, to stand around the braai and discuss all the bad happening in the country. But what are you doing about it? 

"If we change a community like Manenberg, we all benefit. Problems aren't [confined] to a certain area – it has a knock-on effect to other communities in the form of crime or other social ills. We all need to be part of the change. Invest in them and they will give back. It's a win-win situation."

The campaign is in the process of establishing a "Light Hub Centre" in Manenberg to act as a one-stop shop for those seeking empowerment or assistance for issues plaguing their community.

Veale-Oliver believes that collaboration between all sectors of society, including business and government, is essential to effecting lasting change.

The couple encourages anyone interested in helping them grow the campaign or starting a similar chapter in their own community to contact them via Facebook at

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