Back to Letter Box



17 May 2001

Mr TM Mbeki
Republic of South Africa

Dear Sir

Allow me to bring the matter of gang warfare in the Western Cape to your attention. The UDM believes that the extent of the gang problem is of such a nature that it should be placed on the national agenda, and form part of government's national priorities.  The UDM provincial structure in the Western Cape have informed me that it is of the opinion that a long term solution lies in a combined response from all three tiers of government; I concur. It is therefore necessary that the matter be initiated at national level by your office.

In the absence of official police crime statistics, allow me to present the following figures, as pertaining exclusively to Cape Town, to highlight the current scale of the gang problem:

1. It has been reported that 103 people have died in gang-related violence since the beginning of this year; in the past nine days at least 8 people have died.

2. It is estimated that approximately 5% of Cape Town's population belong to 280 gangs.

 3. The majority of gang members are between the ages of 12 and 25.

Two additional factors, which lend national significance to the issue, cannot be ignored when considering the gang problem.

1. Gangs and organised crime are directly involved in the burgeoning illicit drug trade, adding to the negative socio-economic impact gangs have on society, especially the youth and under-privileged. It has been estimated that 50% of drug users started at the tender age of 13!

2. Gangs and organised crime have been linked to so-called "protection rackets" and urban terror.

Due to a lack of information and comprehensive research on the subject it is difficult to determine what the level of gang related violence and crime is in other provinces, but I would suggest that it has reached serious levels in Gauteng, KwaZulu Natal and the Eastern Cape. This highlights one of the major issues I would like to raise with you, the lack of adequate information. The UDM proposes that government, as a matter of urgency, conducts a nationwide investigation backed by a comprehensive survey to determine the exact geographic and demographic extent of the gang problem, and that this be updated and monitored on an annual basis.

It is evident that current approaches to deal with the gang problem have not been successful. Neither Operation Crackdown, nor any other government programme, is geared towards long-term prevention and eradication of gangs or address the social roots of the gang problem. The current "quick fix" seems to amount to little more than the temporary deployment of SANDF and SAPS personnel to selected hot spots. The UDM suggests that a holistic approach involving all tiers of government is required, specifically in the sectors of Safety and Security, Social Development, Education, Sport and Recreation, Health as well as Arts, Culture, Science and Technology.

Allow me to make the following specific proposals:

That the Presidency immediately sets up an integrated co-ordinating committee to suggest and implement action plans. National, provincial and local government role players, political parties, civil society (schools, churches, business, NGO's etc) should all form part of it.

That the best possible intelligence people from the SAPS be made available to fully investigate and formulate an understanding of the problem. They should make use of international experts where necessary. This was done in a limited fashion when urban terror was at its highest levels in Cape Town.

That the matter is addressed in a holistic interdepartmental manner and a two-fold approach be considered. Firstly, immediate action by the SAPS and the courts, and secondly a medium term programme to implement socio-economic upliftment programmes in certain areas of Cape Town to eradicate the culture of gangsterism, introduce alternatives and prevent "breeding grounds" for it. This should include:

    The Department of Safety and Security: on an ongoing basis through visible policing and intelligence gathering.

    The Department of Education: This department should play a leading role in developing, within the minds of learners, an alternative to gangs. They should also be involved in training learners and the community in non-violent conflict solution skills.  The Department of Education should involve itself in  the community in skills developing programmes for young adults who have left schools.

      The Department of Sport and Recreation and the Department of Arts,  Culture, Science and Technology: An assessment of the recreational activities of these areas must be done and a study conducted to determine  the requirements and needs of the communities involved.  Are there recreational facilities and are they sufficient, or were they put there because somebody somewhere decided this is what the community wants?

    The Department of Trade and Industry: Gangs becomes not only a way of living but also a way of making a living.  This Department should look into  the possibility to establish Enterprise Development programmes within these communities that would allow for alternative and legal sources of income.  Enterprise Development programmes are desperately needed for the benefit and upliftment of the whole community.

    The Department of Public Works: This department should look at public work         projects that can be implemented in the affected communities, with a view of         improving infrastructure and creating jobs.

    The Department of Health and the Department of Welfare: for the obvious         contributions that they will be able to make in terms of counselling and health training with regard to issues such as AIDS, substance abuse and teen pregnancy.

    Local Government: must be involved because it is this level of Government that is the closest to the community and in many ways are best placed to assess the true needs of the community.

There are more departments that can and should get involved.  However, the overriding determining factor should be the involvement of the community and organised community structures such as churches and civics.

Be assured of my party's full support and active participation in finding a long-term solution that will deal with a problem that we believe is still marginalizing a substantial sector of our society.  As long as the gang problem is not addressed, democracy and freedom will not be a reality for these communities.  For them life is no different than 30 years ago.

Your urgent attention and response to this serious problem will be appreciated.

HB Holomisa, MP
President - United Democratic Movement

Back to Letter Box