5 December 2012

South Africa: Gangsterism Continues As 21 Teenagers Arrested in Khayelitsha

Cape Town — In a week's time a group of teenagers will make their second appearance in the Khayelitsha Magistrate's Court after being arrested for public violence and possession of dangerous weapons, as the gangsterism problem rages on in the township.Meanwhile the mother of a reformed teen gangster says she still has hope in the future of her child.

Earlier this year, GroundUp did an exclusive interview with three teenagers from Khayelitsha who were members of the Vatos Locos gang.

Naming themselves Latinyo, Abosh and Analito, the boys claimed that they were fighting against the Vura gang, who were dominant in Site B.

Now 19 and fresh out of Pollsmoor Prison, Latinyo says he has had it and does not want to be involved in a gang anymore. Speaking softly over the phone from a place he was sent to by his mother, he said: "Ndisafe sister, hayi, ndiphumile kweziway. Ndiright, nangaphakathi bendiphetheke kakuhle." (I'm safe, and I am done with gangs. I'm okay. Even in prison, everything was in order.)

His mother, Siziwe Mqamelo (not her real name) said Latinyo was arrested in July along with four others after they allegedly attacked and killed a boy from Site B. Latinyo was released on bail, last week Wednesday, but missed his Grade 12 exams.

"These kids are making us laughing stocks of the country and the community with this gangsterism thing, because now people will think that we as parents cannot control our own children. My son has loved cycling, since he was small. He always used to take his bike and ride around in the township. There was this one day while cycling in the Site B area, that he was attacked by a group of boys. They said they attacked him because he came from H-Section, which was where their 'enemies' were from. My son has always had a short temper and told himself that he wouldn't let a bunch of boys beat him up for nothing, so he sort revenge, and that is how he got involved in gangsterism.

"Luckily, since he was in a gang, we never had any problems here in the house. I used to visit him while he was in Pollsmoor and I would speak to him and he would see what this thing of his was doing to me. He was even stabbed once and landed in hospital. There is nothing worse than when your child leaves the house. There is a strong possibility that he might not come back," said Mqamelo.

She said she still had high hopes for Latinyo and believed that he would join the army as he wanted to and eventually become a journalist.

According to police spokesman Frederick Van Wyk, Khayelitsha SAPS responded to information of a possible youth gang fight that was about to take place on Friday afternoon about a week ago. On arrival the members spotted a large group of children walking along Lansdowne Road near H-Section.

Police then arrested 21 youths between the ages of 14 and 20 and confiscated a range of pangas, knives and home-made weapons. They were detained on charges of public violence and possession of dangerous weapons.

"All the children under the age of 18 were released in the care of their parents by the probation officers, while the rest of the children appeared in the Khayelitsha Magistrate's Court on 26 November. The children who were not released are currently in a place of safety. The case was postponed until 12 December 2012 for further investigation, and also the investigation in a murder case which occurred on 7 November whereby a teenager was murdered on Spine Road also in Khayelitsha," said a statement released by the police.

Bongani Siko, chairperson of the Khayelitsha community policing forum (CPF), was involved in the arresting of the teenagers. He said, "These kids are seeking attention. They see what happens in the movies, and then bring it to the township".

Siko said the gangsterism situation was very bad and the community and parents were not doing much to help solve the situation. "We need everyone to play a part in this. For instance the weapons that were confiscated from these children, where do they get them? If a parent sees a panga or an axe missing, don't they question themselves about where it is? We all need to work together."

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