Gangs: Causes, ef­fect and so­lu­tion

Lesotho Times - - News -

...From page 13

They re­sort to rob­bing and steal­ing to sup­port their drug and al­co­hol habits. Larger groups nor­mally keep th­ese young­sters in check, of­fer­ing them “jobs” – like sell­ing drugs in their neigh­bour­hoods.

how­ever, gangs like seakhi and terene, op­er­ate like well-or­gan­ised in­sti­tu­tions. They con­sist of lower and up­per struc­tures gov­erned by strict codes of con­duct and gang rules. Break­ing any of the rules or the code of con­duct could mean death. Many who have tried have paid with their lives.

Gangs con­trol large ar­eas, usu­ally com­mu­ni­ties or parts of cities and towns. Th­ese ar­eas are known as “turfs”. Each gang nor­mally has its own “turf” which they guard with their lives from other gangs. on their turfs, they ma­nip­u­late their il­licit ac­tiv­i­ties, which in­clude prostitution, drug deal­ing and she­beens. This is typ­i­cal with un­em­ployed Ba­sotho men mak­ing il­licit liv­ing by gath­er­ing gold dust in aban­doned mines in South Africa who make lit­er­ally hun­dreds of thou­sands of mal­oti, to pro­vide liv­ing for their fam­i­lies and to fund their ne­far­i­ous ac­tiv­i­ties. Th­ese groups are mostly lo­cated in South African min­ing towns and have their turfs there and go un­der­ground to en­gage in their ac­tiv­i­ties for months only to emerge later with thou­sands of mal­oti. They are col­lo­qui­ally called “lito­tomeng or zama-zama”. how­ever, omi­nously for seakhi and terene they carry out their vi­cious killings even in ar­eas one would hardly ex­pect, where they have no vis­i­ble pres­ence.

Many com­mu­ni­ties have be­come de­pen­dent on the il­le­gal and some­times dan­ger­ous ac­tiv­i­ties of gang­sters. Money-laun­der­ing is big busi­ness for many gangs. That is why con­trol­ling and pro­tect­ing large turfs are so im­por­tant. peo­ple who may never ob­tain loans else­where are af­forded loans by large gangs. in re­turn, the gang­sters get paid “in­ter­est” on the loans they hand­out. on the other hand, com­mu­ni­ties would not read­ily ex­pose their savours-ei­ther out of fear or be­cause they would have nowhere to go to ob­tain their monthly loans.

of­ten, the or­der to com­mit a crime is fil­tered through the ranks of the gang. Thus, the per­son com­mit­ting the crime never knows who gave the or­der. The po­lice, there- fore, are never able to get hold of the lead­er­ship.

Some ar­eas in our cities might be iden­ti­fied as gang hotspots. It is within th­ese ar­eas that gangs have the most in­flu­ence. It is also in those ar­eas that young­sters are taught their first steps into the world of gangs. Be­cause of vi­o­lence caused by fight­ing be­tween gangs, many in­no­cent peo­ple, in­clud­ing women and chil­dren, get caught in the cross­fire. Count­less peo­ple have lost their lives and oth­ers maimed for life.

The ex­tent of the prob­lem is so far-reach­ing that not even the po­lice or govern­ment can say when gang­ster­ism will be ad­dressed to fi­nal­ity. Many are still un­con­vinced that in­creas­ing po­lice force pres­ence and rop­ing in the army would stop or

re­duce gang ac­tiv­i­ties. Self-de­fence of in­di­vid­u­als and com­mu­ni­ties, which sadly is tak­ing the law into one’s own hands, seems the only way of fight­ing gang­ster­ism. The po­lice and other agen­cies have thus far failed.

Many in­no­cent peo­ple are los­ing their lives while the po­lice con­cen­trate on dis­arm­ing rather than arm­ing the peo­ple. if peo­ple in gan­grid­den ar­eas were taught to arm them­selves and take a stand within the bounds of the law, against the thugs that trau­ma­tize them daily, then gang­sters would have the ta­bles turned against them. The truth is, gang­sters pre­fer un­armed vic­tims and like all crim­i­nals, gang­sters fear armed citizens and vis­i­ble polic­ing as well com­mu­nity polic­ing within the pa­ram­e­ters of the law.

in con­clu­sion, if truth be told, un­less there is a con­certed ef­fort by the po­lice, army and other agen­cies as well as com­mu­ni­ties to curb gang­ster­ism, this evil will live in our com­mu­ni­ties for quite some time.

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