Leave no one behind

Johann Kikillus, Ocean View

On Milky Way Road, just outside the multi-purpose centre, are two crosses, freshly placed there to remember the lives of two young men whose lives were abruptly ended this past week.

Since the beginning of the school holidays, there has been a spike in murders and gang-related shooting.

The community is once again left traumatised and angry.

This coming weekend yet another peace march has been planned.

The ongoing call for more police members is all over social media.

For some reason that I am unable to understand, this plea has fallen on deaf ears for years. In every gang-ridden community that I have worked in across Cape Town since 2004, the outcry over lack of visible policing has largely been ignored by national government.

Gang units have been shut down and other specialised personnel have been shut down and redeployed elsewhere.

The City of Cape Town, under Mayco member JP Smith, has tried to fill this gap, but obviously a municipality has a minuscule budget when compared to a national government department.

The lack of policing does not mean that all is lost. Policing only makes up one part of many when addressing gang violence.

There are many role-players that can contribute to ending this senseless violence.

Firstly we have to ask why young people, especially males, are drawn into gangs.

We need to understand why they reach the point where they are prepared to give up their dreams and instead live a life of fear and regrets.

In my experience of having worked with thousands of gangsters both in and out of prison, there are several factors that always pop up.

Firstly, the boy grows up in a single-parent home – often granny, but sometimes mother. His father is pretty much non-existent or is part of the problem.

The young boy grows up in poverty and begins to believe that this is his lot in life. He struggles at school and is often bullied or teased by others due to his poor circumstances.

He watches his mother struggle and is exposed to an unhealthy, often violent home life.

Because he feels unwanted at home, he spends his waking hours outside where he is immediately marked as a “useful” tool for the local gang.

His school work suffers because no one at home can assist him with his homework or studies.

He is constantly told, by teachers and adults, that he will amount to nothing.

Statistically he will drop out by Grade 9, and no one in the school will make the slightest attempt to ensure that he finishes matric (which by today’s standards does not amount to much).

Round about this point, the young male makes some life choices which will impact the rest of his life – should he survive past 25 years old. Due to the lack of positive role models, he will continue on his path of destructive behaviour.

When he has shot a gun once, he feels a sense of power come over him. He feels like a “something” because now people start taking him seriously.

This feeling cements his decision that this is the right path to take.

Next time we see him, he lies cold on a pavement, surrounded by adults and children who have nothing good to say.

A life is wasted.

In the above scenario, we see that it takes more than police to change a gang community.

The most important role-players are the parents, neighbours, principals, teachers, religious leaders, social workers, sports coaches and nurses.

The civil society contribution – that is those involved in the Community Police Forum, school governing bodies, neighbourhood watches, church leaders etc – are the ones who ultimately decide on the direction a community goes.

This is why it is vitally important to constantly have public meetings and discussions. This is not a time for politics but a means of checking that the “system” works.

My biggest fear for Cape Town’s communities over the next year is that electioneering will result in valuable time being wasted with mudslinging and finger pointing.

We, as civil society, need to stay focused and come up with solutions on making sure that every single young person’s rights are met -the right to finish school well, the right to justice, the right to express themselves in a positive way, the right to human dignity, the right to visit the library and youth group without being shot at and the right to have a childhood.

May I suggest that this starts today. Again, statistics show us that many high school pupils drop out of school now and do not even bother starting the third term.

It is a community’s job to ensure that
not one child is left behind.