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Monday, 26 March, 2001, 09:38 GMT 10:38 UK
Reign of terror in the Cape
Cape Flats
The Cape Flats are notoriously violent
By Mohammed Allie in Cape Town

The murder of an 18-year-old girl on her way to school has once again highlighted the problem of gangsterism plaguing the Cape Flats.

On Friday Lydia Michaels was gunned down in the Cape Flats township of Bonteheuwel, in what police believe was an assassination by gang members.

Lydia was due to testify in the Cape Town High Court this Thursday in a case against three gangsters who were accused of raping her last year.

Her killing has once again brought into sharp focus the life-threatening dangers of living amid the powerful gangs - a sad reality which communities in the Cape Flats townships have to cope with on a daily basis.

Terror

Friday's murder came in the week when two adults and a youth were convicted of gang-raping and brutally murdering 14-year old Valencia Farmer in June 1999.

Cape Town map
After a brief lull in inter-gang rivalry and gang activity following the rise of the anti crime group, Pagad, between 1996 and 1998, gangs have been conducting a reign of terror over the past year with many innocent bystanders being killed in the crossfire.

The present academic year started on a tragic note in January when 15-year-old schoolgirl, Karen Adriaanse, was killed after being caught in the crossfire of rival gangs in the township of Manenberg.

She was walking towards a taxi rank on her way to start her first day of the new school year.

Since then the provincial education and security authorities have had to beef up security in the townships of Manenberg, Mitchell's Plain and Hanover Park to ensure that school children are able to go to and leave school safely.

Gangs

In the township of Tafelsig, one of the poorest in Cape Town, psychologists have reported that at least one teenager attempts suicide every month as a result of poverty and a breakdown in family life.

Pagad parade in 1996
Pagad stemmed gang activity for a while
Given the flashy lifestyles of gangsters, many youth are lured to gangs from an early age as a route out of poverty.

Last week Provincial Safety and Security Minister Hennie Bester revealed that up to 100,000 people - that is 5% of the local population belong to gangs in the Western Cape region.

They were divided among 280 gangs and most were between the ages of 12 and 25.

With unemployment rising and family life breaking down, the government and local communities have a major task in combating the increasing influence of gangs who are now also spreading to the quieter rural areas of the Western Cape.

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See also:

08 Sep 00 | Africa
Clampdown after Cape killing
14 Mar 01 | Africa
Commuting in Cape Town
28 May 99 | South Africa elections
South Africa's crime crisis
07 Sep 00 | Africa
Child murders shock Cape Town
27 Jul 00 | Africa
SA poverty gap remains
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