Reclaiming Gugulethu from gangs

ANC member of the provincial legislature and party spokesperson on education, Muhammad Khalid Sayed, in conversation with young people of Gugulethu, some who have dropped out of school.

After years fighting a war on gangs, Gugulethu community members, police and non-governmental organisations came together on Freedom Day to discuss implementing preventive interventions that focus on increasing social capacity to reduce gang membership and rehabilitate gang members who are often teenagers.

The concerned members said for many young people in Gugulethu, where gangsterism is rife, their lives have been stalled and some were in danger. They said teenage gangs fought each other as a way of gaining control of the areas and girls.

The meeting on Freedom Day is a follow-up of the march that was held on April 18 by the Reënboog Early Childhood, a community service provider, in conjunction with the police and neighbourhood watches (“Gugs fed-up with crime and gangs”, Vukani, April 21).

Freda Andjene, director of Reënboog Early Childhood, said after the march they had a meeting with the fighting gangs and agreed to have a day where they will be taught and be advised on many life issues, including having games. “Restoring and moulding the future leaders of our nation is vital. Through support, mentoring and coaching these children will know the facts of life and come together.

“As our march was successful, it pointed our focus to reconciling our young intermediate phase boys who are fighting against each other for no specific reasons (often over girls) but being from the same area, Gugulethu, and being divided by areas like New Rest, Barcelona, NY 111 and others. But after this event, we are planning on having ongoing work in progress sessions and aftercare programmes with this phase in restoring them back to decent living among each other and peers,” she said.

The boys will have to pledge to refrain from fighting and upholding the safety and cleanliness of their community. Through various programmes that will be introduced, they will be made to work together.

Community activist Nombeko Leputhing said they cannot fold their arms and watch their young people fighting for no apparent reason(s).

She said the youth are the country’s most valuable resource, so it’s important that they have access to programmes to achieve success.

Ms Leputhing said most children join gangs because they have nothing to do and some are school drop-outs. “What we are planning is to talk to the education department and find out how best we can have some colleges. That is one of the reasons that we have invited Muhammad Khalid Sayed, the ANC member of the provincial legislature and the party’s spokesperson on education, here. We want him to also see the problem we are facing as parents and the community,” she said.

Ms Leputhing said they have hope that these children will “get back to school one day and be something in life.”

Mr Sayed spoke to youngsters and listened to their concerns. Some told him they had no choice but to leave school because they had no funding while some were not sure why they left school. However, they were all interested in going back to school.

Mr Sayed said there was a need to empower the youth in gang-ridden communities by giving them the opportunity to be active participants in shaping their environments. “But how do you do that when the system is failing them? It is difficult to apply for school anywhere in the province. The system used is difficult and let us be honest, who owns a computer here, who has an internet connection, how many people have top-of-the-range mobile phones where they can use them to apply for their kids (online)?

“This system needs to be looked at thoroughly. I am going to raise this with the national Minister of (Basic) Education. We all know that this system is a problem, even in Gauteng,” he said.

Some parents who attended the event praised the efforts by all to combat crime.

Parent Thandiswa Mcima said online (school) applications do not work for them because most people do not have computers and most are unemployed, so don’t have phones. However, she praised all those who are trying to get children back to school and stopping the gang fights. “They are doing a great job for us as parents and the community at large. No parent wants to see these nonsensical fights. On behalf of the community, we are grateful for these efforts,” she said.

The concerned members are urging all to restore Gugulethu through reclaiming “our Gugulethu which is Mine, Yours and Ours. Eyam, Eyakho, Eyethu. Myne, Joune, Onse Gugulethu”.

Parent Thandiswa Mcima, left, lodged a complaint with ANC member of the provincial legislature and party spokesperson on education, Muhammad Khalid Sayed, and Nombeko Lephuting about the difficulties of online school applications.