Gang Town: Amandla Forum (12 October 2016)

Gangsterism is a huge problem in Cape Town; some characterize it as a pandemic. This leads to the necessity to talk about the issue and what we can do about it. The discussion was well attended with approximately 80 participants.

The guest speaker was Don Pinnock, a criminologist and author, who has worked on the issue of gangsterism for more than three decades. Five students from Ramsey High School in Bishop Lavis also gave an input. They reflected on living and learning in a gang-ridden community.

The High school students spoke about how gangsterism influences their everyday life. They mentioned that crossfires in the streets or being robbed for cellphones are part of their daily reality. They experience losing relatives and close friends through violent attacks. Not feeling safe at home or in the community drives some to be part of a gang in order for them to protect themselves.

The pupils mentioned that Bishop Lavis is a paradise for gangsterism and drugs. Poverty, unemployment and the lack of education were reasons given for high rates of violence and drugs in the community.

For Don Pinnock the roots of gangsterism are poverty and hopelessness, which might go hand in hand with drug abuse. In order to solve the problem of gangsterism, a solution to the basic problems has to be found.

Cape Town is a tale of two cities – the middle class suburb of Rondebosch has a murder rate of 6,4 people per 100 000 people whilst in comparison the murder rate in the township of Nyanga is 200 people per 100 000 people. This statistic illustrates the stark difference in the lived reality.

According to Pinnock: single-parent families, lack of structure and the need for affirmation are some of the reasons resulting in young people joining gangs.

In spite of the complexity of gangsterism, Don Pinnock gave two major approaches to keep the youth away from gangs. Firstly, he stressed the importance of education. Adolescents in education or training are less likely to join a gang. Long-term education is a way to improve people´s living conditions and lead them out of poverty and hopelessness.

He says that young people are generally mischievous, but generally we grow out of it, as we get older. The worry is when we do not grow out of it. The question is why do some grow out of it and others not?

One proposal is epigenetics, a new science that looks at whether people cause problems because of nature versus nurture. Epigenetics tells us that there are three influences on the beginning of life:

  1. Mother and fathers DNA
  2. Influences happening moment by moment through the cell wall
  3. Mother’s actions and feelings for 100 days after birth.

Some of the solutions Pinnock offered up include:

  • Decriminalising drugs
  • Reforming education
  • Abolish prisons
  • Family support
  • Fathers to play role in families
  • Nurse visits for new born babies
  • Love

He mentioned that the education system is in a mess. Critically, he feels that it is essential that a love for learning be instilled. And that it is important to not only teach people from the neck up but rather that people are taught skills like how work with their hands for example.

Responses from the floor:

  • Huge housing issue negatively impacts on the level of violence in communities…
  • What is the role of the middle class?
  • Impact of race? Can we solve gangsterism without addressing issues of racism?
  • What will the impact of the new wave of gentrification have on gangsterism
  • How urban planning can be used as an instrument to reduce violence in communities?


R550 in donations was raised to support the striking Robertson Winery workers.

Next Forum: History of the Relevance of Psychology; Date: 3 November 2016; Time: 18:00


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