Peter Luhanga - August 19, 2020

Starts anti gangsterism movement

A Dunoon gang of teenagers became so notorious its members were hired by individuals for illegal debt collection and by those seeking revenge against their personal or business enemies. Their price for undertaking a “dirty job” was in the region of R15 000. But one man had enough of the gangster lifestyle and called it quits after witnessing his fellow gang member dying in front of him. In 2016, Evaristo Kasendwa, 22, dropped out of Grade 11 at Inkwenkwezi Secondary School due to peer pressure and his involvement in gang activities. Kasendwa had been an active gang member since 2012 when he was in Grade 7, but after four years looked for a way out of his life of violence. “Rival gang group members were always waiting outside the school gate to fight. Sometimes we fought for girls, sometimes, say we were at a shebeen drinking, our gang member had a fight with a rival gang member, we would then fight to defend our gang member,” said Kasendwa.

He says the fights never ended. Violence was always in the background and a fight could start at any point when rival gang members crossed each others paths. He has since formed a movement called Dunoon Against Gangsterism to try to convince other gangsters in the township to change their ways and go back to school, and has gathered 413 followers on the movement’s Facebook page. He says at the height of his gang activities there were 11 active gang groupings in Dunoon, and his was the most notorious. His gang group, he says, had members ranging in age from 14 to 24. “We were doing all sorts of things, like robbing, stabbing. We fought people’s battles. People came to hire us,” he says. Asked what made him quit, he says: “The minute I saw my friend die in front of me. I said no more. This cannot go on. I left Dunoon and started staying in Parow where I met a pastor who spoke about motivation and he transformed my thinking.” He says he started attending church services and watching religious television programmes, and believes this had an impact on his transformation. He now wants to help others get out of gangsterism. “The other gangsters that I left are also trying to change but it’s difficult because they’re too deep into it. They can’t hide their pain. They hide their pain by using drugs. Most of them listen to me when I motivate them to change. They start to be normal people, start looking for work and start taking care of their families,” he says.

But he is facing an uphill battle in his quest to transform gangsters into decent citizens. He says his movement needs support from sponsors and corporate companies surrounding Dunoon to enable him to reach out to active gang members and establish a proper rehabilitation programme. “We need funds to help rehabilitate those that are on drugs, help them participate in sports activities, any kind of sport, be it rugby, tennis. The young children should also be educated on the dangers of joining gangs before they end up joining them. We need to conduct motivation speeches in schools targeting children before they get hooked into gangsterism,” he says. Community Leader Beauty Madlomo Ndamane said she was thankful that Kasendwa had quit gangsterism. Ndamane says she knew one of Kasendwa’s gang member friends, who was a “very deadly man”. “He used to go around with a very dangerous man. Now that he (Kasendwa) has quit we need to support him. He needs support,” said Ndamane.

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