Gangsters recruit at primary level
Get kids hooked on drugs, make them pushers
LATE last month two boys aged 13 and 14 were arrested in Beacon Valley on a charge of illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition, prompting the authorities to warn that the Cape Flats gang recruitment drive was targeting younger and younger children.
Mitchells Plain station commander Brigadier Johan Brand expressed his dismay that children so young were being arrested on such serious charges, but Western Cape Community Police Forum (CPF) chairman Hanif Loonat says it’s no surprise.
Gangs, he warns, are pushing to recruit even younger children, including at primary school level, where these youngsters are expected to peddle drugs in the playground.
The two teenagers were found with one firearm and a 9mm round of ammunition, according to police spokesman Colonel Thembinkosi Kinana.
Loonat explained that gangs wanted to get children hooked on drugs, then groom them to become either salesmen or hitmen.
“They twist the minds of potential recruits with money, drugs and violence, into serving their own purposes. Not only are schools being used to recruit members and even sell drugs, but even religious places like mosques and churches have become their hunting grounds,” he said.
It was widely accepted that drug dealers were recruited at high schools and universities, which had been going on for years, but Hanif says it’s complacency that has seen them infiltrate even primary schools.
“Gangs have become increasingly brazen in their recruiting, and will use any means to get kids to join – whether it’s drugs, money or force. Drugs in high schools have almost become the ‘norm’, and we can’t be too surprised that it has made its way down to primary, because we failed to stop it earlier.”
The CPF declined to mention the gangs involved.
Recently, the Mitchells Plain CPF held a community meeting to discuss growing community concerns about younger and younger children being targeted by gangs.
Abie Isaacs, Mitchells Plain CPF chairman, said gangs had literally developed training camps to groom the youth as gunmen.
“The gangs will recruit kids from one area, say Mitchells Plain for example. They will then take them out of the area and train them in another area. They will use drugs and a ‘party’ lifestyle to recruit these children, but it’s anything but that. Once they’re in the gang there is no escape. We have asked police to urgently look into the matter,” he said.
Isaacs speculated that one of the reasons gangs recruited away from their base was to weaken rivals, while simultaneously strengthening their own numbers.
Western Cape Education Department spokesman Paddy Atwell said although they hadn’t had any specific reports of forced recruitment by gangs, they were well aware that gangs were targeting children and teenagers alike.
“The recruitment of learners into gangs is not a new phenomenon. Gangs have been recruiting children and teenagers for many years.
“We are aware that gangs recruit young people in their communities to carry guns and drugs.”
Their Safe Schools division worked closely with various partners, including the police and the departments of social development and community safety, to address criminal behaviour among young people.
“Safe Schools also runs a variety of programmes to influence learner behaviour, and to intervene, in collabora- tion with other agencies,” he added.
One Cape Flats school principal, who did not want to be named, said he added a second fence around his school in a bid to keep gangsters as far away from his pupils as possible.
“Children act like fullyfledged gangsters by the time they move from primary school to high school, trying to intimidate fellow pupils and teachers as well.
“But what they don’t realise is that they are simply tools, and will be discarded at the first sign of trouble,” he said.
“The gangs take advantage of them, knowing that as minors they will not be punished to the full extent of the law, and that their parents will ‘cover up’ for them.”
SECURITY ZONE: The principal of this Cape Flats high school says he had the double fence installed around the perimeter of the property to keep drug dealers and gangsters as far away from his pupils as possible.