Research & Innovation 2015-16 - Page 40

Gang violence exposes truth about
lost generation
The Cape Flats is aflame yet again. The body count is climbing, as the gangs
square off in yet another unwritten chapter of this interminable war.
Six-year-old Saadiqah Lippert died outside her
granny’s Athlone house, when she was caught in the
crossfire between two warring gangsters.
Don Pinnock will tell you the gangs aren’t
the problem; they are only symptomatic of a
phenomenon that affects every one of us.
The month before, it was eight-year-old Mbulelo
and 15-year-old Linathi Ngcwanga, in Nyanga.
It’s a story of a lost generation, of unloved youths
who become young adults who are not just
unemployed, but unemployable.
The protagonists are almost always young men,
many still in their teens; warriors in an urban jungle
where the police are often scared to enter – at
least, not without tactical equipment, armoured
vehicles and reinforcements.
That helps to explain why Cape Town, lauded as
one of the world’s most beguiling destinations, is
also one of its deadliest.
But the headlines don’t
tell the whole story.
They teeter on the edge of the abyss, threatening to
pull down the entire edifice around their ears. But
there is hope. The situation can be reversed.
This is the central tenet of Pinnock’s latest
book, Gang Town: a searing, methodical study of
the gang crisis in Cape Town, distilling 36 years of
research, and forays into the ghettoes and shacklands
of places such as Mitchell’s Plain, Lavender Hill and
Khayelitsha, in a bid
to make sense of
one of the world’s
most dangerous
Pinnock’s interest in
gangs was piqued when he moved
to Cape Town in the 1980s.
Living in Long Street, he would find kids
sleeping in the street. They would tell him
they’d been thrown out by their families –
just some of the flotsam and jetsam of the
catastrophic social engineering that was the
eradication of about 60 000 souls from what was
District Six, to new homes on the sandy, windswept
and far-flung Cape Flats.
These kids sparked his interest in the destruction of
family structures, and the filling of this void by gangs.
Pinnock’s original plan was to bring his two previous
books on gangs and gang mythology up to date; but
instead, he ended up revisiting some of his original
hypotheses – and totally overhauling them. Chief
among them was his study of the still relatively
unheralded science of epigenetics, the body’s ability

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