Due to the overwhelming response to our broadcast of Young Lives, Wrong Turns, Special Assignment will rebroadcast this episode which looks at the growing gang problem in various townships in the Vaal Triangle, with a particular focus on Sebokeng.
Residents have been plagued with gang violence since 2010. Many gang members are unemployed or impoverished youth who rob businesses and steal from people. Unregistered and therefore illegal initiation schools in the area subvert the complex and rich history of traditional male, cultural initiation and reportedly feed gangs with new members. Some initiates who attend these schools are as young as 13 and do so willingly because they aspire to gang life. Many young boys are allegedly kidnapped during the night and taken to these schools against their and their parents’ will and their families are extorted into paying a ransom for their return.
The Wrong Turns is the most notorious gang in Sebokeng. Members can be recognised by the pangas they carry and by the trail of destruction they leave behind them. Residents say members rape young girls and terrorise patrons and management at taverns they attack. Twenty-four year-old Katara is the leader of the Wrong Turns, for him and many gang members like him, the gang is their family. Despite his alleged criminal behaviour and habit of inhaling glue, Katara is a talented hip-hop musician but what chance does he have of becoming a successful musician without opportunities for rehabilitation?
Several years ago, the ward counsellor and local police put a rehabilitation programme in place for youth involved in gangs in the area. The programme was meant to help them exit the gangs and make better choices in their lives. Not long after the programme ended, gang life returned to normal. Katara says this was because the police did not provide alternatives, like employment, for youth like him.
Special Assignment goes undercover into the world of the Wrong Turns and brings you exclusive footage of how they operate.
Watch Young Lives, Wrong Turns produced by Lee McCabe for Special Assignment. Broadcast Sundays on SABC 3at 20h30, repeated Wednesdays at 23h30