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The Story of Gangsterism on the Cape Flats

Sep 21, 2022

4 min read
20 September 2022

Many South African associate the Cape Flats with gangsterism. To understand the world of gangsters, especially those who have chosen to rehabilitate and integrate into a normal life, Radio Islam International spoke to Piet Barlow, whose been sharing the stories of gang members who have reformed and use TikTok as a platform to showcase their stories.

Barlow’s journey into the world began when he met a former hitman who transformed his life and worked as a security guard.

He says sharing his stories of transformation shows that change is possible, but it is a first step, a step that establishes hope.

Barlow explained that gangsters, most are battling with the “chaos of life”, and transformation for them is difficult.

Barlow said his interviews in Hanover Park on the Cape Flats were initially hesitant, but once members of CeaseFire accompanied him, he knew he was in the right place. They had built a system of trust that allowed for the beginnings of his relationship, which now holds significant value. His takeaway was that you deny any opportunity for a genuine relationship if you are fearful.

He shared that his experiences, scary and joyous, had taught him about himself, but instead of just seeing these spaces with fear, one should also recognise some wonderful people live, work, and play there.

According to Barlow, it is important to see the gangsters not with fear and hostility, but instead, we should not look upon people struggling to get through their difficulties because we each have our monkeys to carry.

Barlow says that residents on the Cape Flats have accepted the transmission of violence and the groups that encourage it. He explained how CeaseFire worked within the Cape Flats using three factors – firstly, by interrupting the transmission of violence through mediation. Most of the violence interrupters are former gang members who have kept their relationships with former gangs and understand the workings of the systems.

These interrupters identify the primary transmitters of gang violence, leading them to a program to learn to change their behaviours. And most importantly, it is done consistently as this meets the group’s goal to change group norms over a long period.

Barlow says that to help the youth, especially young men, is to show them what the best model of themselves will look like.

[LISTEN] to the podcast here

By Muhammed Bham


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