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Gangsters, drugs and dead kids

When drug dealers come out, kids get caught in the crossfire.
By Scott Dunlop

Pic: Shutterstock

The chiaroscuro nature of life in Cape Town is either obvious or invisible, depending on which side of the railway line you live. Some communities drift between malls and gated houses without ever having to come into contact with real-life gangsters. Other communities live sandwiched between tik dens, brothels and gang hideouts. Every day, teens and kids are caught in the crossfire of turf battles and bleed their lives out into gutters already filthy with the rubbish which clutters the drains and flutters onto the razor wire which protects businesses.

In these communities, the lines are easily blurred. A good kid is one who hasn’t joined a gang, hasn’t been forced to draw blood. But it’s hard to find the good children. Their mothers have often had to take two jobs in order to move to slightly better areas, keep their kids out of harm’s way. The bad kids don’t always come across as foot soldiers. If you see them on the streets, they’re just teens, posing on street corners, laughing too loudly at jokes, whistling at schoolgirls. But approach them at night, and the tension becomes palpable. The sense that everything could go wrong in a split second weights down the conversation.

The blue lights come around a few times a week, and the gangly teens are spread-eagled against graffiti-sprayed brick while searched for drugs or weapons, or simply for household items being carried in rucksacks decorated with Tippexed names of ex-classmates. Household items stolen from mom, heading to the corner shop to get exchanged for a few bucks, the money, in turn, swapped for tiny bags of crystals.

The cover of night is less important these days. Now school children have to run the gauntlet of these lost boys. The stories of muggings for school shoes, beatings for bicycles and guns pointed in faces for cell phones are as prevalent as the kids themselves. It’s no longer a case of if you get held up, but when.

The worst offenders are well-known to the cops, who are hamstrung when it comes to attaining convictions. The flimsy nature of cases built on the streets where witnesses live in a protective custody of their own making undermines the chain of evidence. If the charges involve murder, chances are the witnesses will vanish or turn up dead in a pile of junk behind a tik den.

Yet, in the suburbs, just a few kilometers away, privileged children whine about having to clean hamster cages or eat lasagna. They throw their private-school uniforms on the floor; their domestic staff dutifully picks up all the dirty shirts, does the laundry.

After a snack, these kids will spend some time BBMing their friends or killing animated enemies on the PlayStation.

But outside, waiting in the shade of the Plane tree, the peace of the avenue is about to be disturbed. Three men sit in a stolen Toyota with knitted hats pulled down low. Waiting for the electric gate to slide open.

For kids in the suburbs, there is the possibility that they are vulnerable to armed robberies in home invasions. For kids in the Cape Flats, the danger lurks everywhere. Despite the authorities being aware of the dangers vulnerable school kids face, there is little being done to ensure their safety as they access their right to an education.

*In Cape Town, Wednesday 15 May, a teen pupil at a local school was shot in the head on school premises in Athlone, later dying of his injuries. According to News24, his attackers were allegedly three individuals dressed in school tracksuit tops, two of whom were armed. The reason for the shooting incident is unknown. Stabbings, shootings and other violence are far more common at schools on the Cape Flats.

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

Is enough being done to protect vulnerable children living in high-risk crime areas, especially in schools or on the way to and from schools?


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