Street Story

Cape Town Slums: Breakdown of the Rise of Cape Town Gangs

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Cape Town Slums:

Short Story on Cape Town Gangs

While South African gangs can be dated back to the early 1900s, but around the time of the 1970s is when modern day gangs within the South African slums of places like Cape Town, more noticeably the Cape Flats, and other cities throughout the country. Many starting from the prisons and eventually expanding into the streets, helping some South African communities to become among the most dangerous in the world.

south africa gangs and cape town gangs

Editorial Credit: meunierd /

As mentioned, the heart of Cape Town gangs activity has most notably been within the communities of the Cape Flats. The Cape Flats is a large area that has built a reputation through activity in neighborhoods like Mitchell Plains, Philippi, Elsies River, Nyanga, Delft, Bishop Lavis, Khayelitsha, and a handful of other communities that have been part of the Cape Town slums.

Of the Cape Town gangs within the Cape Flats, many of which have been engaging in violent turf wars with each other, the main contributors being the likes of Hard Livings, SexBoys, Mongrels, Americans, 28s, Junky Funky Kids, Rude Boys, Dixie Boys, or the Ghetto Kids.

cape town slums south african slums

Aerial view of the Cape Town slums located in Western Cape, known as the Cape Flats.  Editorial Credit: fivepointsix /

One of the major factors of violence and gang activity is the widespread poverty that has led Cape Town slums like the Cape Flats to be infiltrated with the gangs who often create and establish large drug markets with Cape Town having one of Africa’s largest ports and indulge in other street and illicit activities.

Currently, Cape Town’s Cape Flats communities are home to hundreds of thousands of residents, many that are in conditions that consist of the world’s highest poverty and crime rates, with violence often leading to hundreds of homicides yearly, surpassing many major cities across the globe.

Brief History of Cape Flats

During the apartheid of South Africa, when the city was under complete white rule, many Africans were forced out of their homes and communities and were placed into designated areas like the Cape Flats due to the Group Areas Act, a law that led to the takeover of one’s land. With the removal of residents, South Africa’s society would lose a sense of structure, foundation, culture, and stability as the disenfranchisement led to poverty and a lack of resources.

cape town slums south africa gangs cape town gangs south africa slums

Editorial Credit: Rich T Photo /

The ending to the apartheid, an era of discrimination and racism, did not particularly make things better for everyone, meaning circumstances for many did not just turn around following the end to South Africa’s white rule.  Eventually, the apartheid built communities of the Cape Flats became havens for crime and other activities as a journey through the neighborhoods of the Cape Town slums showcases a region with very little resources.

In recent years, the government has stepped up efforts with military patrols, enforcing tougher laws and regulations on Cape Town gangs, and arranging government programs and non-profit organizations to combat the problems within the Cape Town slums.

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Dirk.D.Theron /

The activities of Cape Town gangs have evolved over the years, from providing a sense of belonging to having political ties and helping with political campaigns, to today’s current era with violence and full fledged street wars.

In all, the apartheid changed the makeup of the numerous South African communities, as if the impoverish and gang infested communities of today were purposely designed. While gang activity has been around for generations, decade by decade the ventures of Cape Town gangs have increased, as at times local authorities turn a blind eye to the activities, unless it has affected more affluent communities.

*Feature Image Editorial credit: Authentic travel /

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Legends of the Streets: City to city Top Kingpins, Gang Leaders, Crews

*Note: All information is provided either through people of the community, outside sources, and/or research. Some information might not be current and/or 100% accurate.

Resources and Further Readings:

Burke, Jason. “Only we can change things’: life in the gang-ridden other side of Cape Town”. The Guardian, 21 October 2019.

Jensen, Steffen (Editors: Hazen, Jennifer and Rodgers, Dennis). Global Gangs: Street Violence Across the World. University of Minnesota Press, 2014.

Somdyala, Kamva. “Gangsters are fighting back, but they will not win, vows Fritz as army keeps watch”. News24, 27 July 2019.

Thompson, Ginger. “Young, Hopeless and Violent in the New South Africa”. New York Times, 21 March 2003.