We watched a video in Poverty & Development class today on gangs in Pollsmoor Prison and Cape Town. The notorious gangs of Pollsmoor are the numbers gangs: 26, 27, and 28. The narrator of the documentary, Ross Kemp, interviewed John Mongrel, the leader of the 28s in Pollsmoor. The documentary was made in 2006, and apparently John Mongrel has since been killed. Speculation rumors the murder was connected with his participation in this documentary. He told the interviewer how he takes a new prisoner every now and then to be his "woman." He makes the man sleep by his bed, wash his clothes. He has sex with the man. Mongrel said this does not make him gay. He is not gay; he is a man, and the man he has sex with is his woman, reports Mongrel. What happens if the man does not want to wash his clothes, sleep by his bed, and have sex with him? He is killed.
Many of the prisoners interviewed reported that their original crime sentences were maybe 6 years, 9 years... a relatively short time. But, these sentences had been extended to 15, 20, 25 years or more, due to the prisoners' participation in gang-related crimes. One man reported that he stabbed a warden multiple times, with intent to kill, because the order was given by the high-ranking officers of the gang he wanted to join.
Originally, these numbers gangs were unaffiliated with outside gangs. This is no longer the case, and certain gangs are connected to the 26s, 27s, and 28s. This affiliation promotes drug trade across the walls of prison and into the community. From my work at Bonnytoun, I know that one of the most notorious gangs, the Americans, are affiliated with the 26s.
The Western Cape has the largest Coloured population of any province in South Africa... It is no coincidence that it also has the highest incidence of gangsterism and gang-related crime. "Coloured" and "gang" tend to be closely associated. In addition to the often impoverished condition of the Coloured population in South Africa, and their constant lower-class status, both during Apartheid regime and today... Drug use (tik, dagga, and mandrax are some of the most common) is also most prevalent among the Coloured community. The white community tends to use cocaine, and the Black community generally sticks to alcohol abuse. The presence of highly trafficked drugs and the fiscal rewards involved in the drug trade lend the Coloured community easily to gangsterism.
I have found myself more and more interested in the unique and troubling condition of the Coloured community in South Africa, and in the rule and presence of gangsterism. I am troubled to think of my class at Bonnytoun, and their constant scribbling of gang affiliations and symbols. I hate to think that it is a real possibility that they too will end up in Pollsmoor one day.
I did not go into great depth on the gangs in Pollsmoor and Cape Town area, but the presence of gangsterism is apparent everywhere. The Wikipedia article on the numbers gangs goes into great detail about the origin, set-up, and inter-workings of these three gangs.