South Africa's Cape Flats exist with parallel structures of criminal and state authority. Unemployment and poverty are two major socioeconomic determinants leading Black and coloured community members to gangsterism. Ceasefire, a local NGO, adopts innovative social crime prevention and public health approaches to crime in Cape Town's Hanover
Social crime prevention focuses on the social, economic, and environmental drivers of gangsterism. These evidence-based practices prove successful in Hanover Park but conflict with special interests in South Africa's competitive party system. State actors actively
undermine Ceasefire's initiatives with dire consequences on peace and development for Cape Town's severely marginalized and neglected communities. The state zealously favours militarized and punitive approaches in crime control, and the politics of crime in South Africa
renders Ceasefire a politically unattractive model. However, holistic approaches, such as Ceasefire's methodology, are necessary to meaningfully transform the lives and opportunities for those submerged in gangsterism.
Keywords: Diplomacy, Gangsterism, Guerrilla diplomacy, NGO diplomacy, Organized crime, Social crime prevention
South Africa’s criminal and public milieu is largely a continuation of apartheid’s legacy rather than a transformation of “institutional and social practices” (Turok, 2001). It is not an intractable climate, but the pressure to reduce crime can undermine crime prevention .
The Institute for Security Studies (2019) discovered increasing policing and stiffer sentences are not reducing South Africa’s levels of violence. Crime prevention could be more effective and cheaper than reacting to criminality over time (Klein, 2019). Social control exerted through the prison system and aggressive policing of crime and gangsterism produce a discursive image of a “black menace” undermining development in South Africa (Ehlers and Tait, 2016; Samara, 2005). These images are harmful to South Africa’s most vulnerable populations and undermine post-apartheid reconciliation. These pejorative stereotypes of impoverished communities of colour harbouring a criminogenic nature only further feed into punitive calls to control crime.
Social crime prevention is a crucial step to humanely address the drivers of crime while being sensitive to context without perpetuating further injustices. Ceasefire and the First Community Resource Centre are leading the way in this regard. They are creating innovative and effective change for some of South Africa’s most precarious and vulnerable communities. Violence Interrupters are like guerrilla diplomats operating in volatile and often unreachable locations for the state. Ceasefire exemplifies a pioneering approach adopted in Cape Town with proven success.
Social crime prevention, including community-based conflict resolution and programs to address the Cape Flats’ residents' structural socioeconomic challenges, is critical. And Ceasefire’s community outreach workers are the strings connecting nodes of governance and services in an approach to nodal governance. Not only can this serve as a resource for healing community trauma and grievances, but as a messenger crossing the broader social fragmentation between racialized and spatialized suburbs. Criminal structures are pervasive and a lifeline for thousands, but this is not where the story must end for Cape Flats’ residents steeped in gangsterism. Ceasefire provides a ray of hope where punitive approaches to crime management have continuously failed, and Ceasefire can start the beginning of restoring justice for thousands by devolving power and empowering citizens in their own lives.