Gang­sters re­cruit at pri­mary level

Get kids hooked on drugs, make them push­ers

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - KOWTHAR SOLOMONS

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.

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