Windhoek-A meeting between Katutura gangsters, the police and leadership of Katutura Central Constituency over the weekend resulted in the birth of a sports tournament that will pave the way for the criminals’ rehabilitation. Over 100 people attended the meeting at the Katutura Community Hall on Saturday. These included 55 young members of notorious gangs, their parents – mostly women – and community members.
At the meeting, the criminals said they turned to crime as a means of survival.
The gangsters, whose ages vary between 15 and 25, are members of the Single Quarters-based gang ‘Boko Haram’, Kasie 202 junior and senior gangs, Panga and After 2, amongst others.
Boko Haram is particularly known for its notorious track record of terror in parts of Katutura.
The lack of opportunities cited include jobs and recreational facilities in Katutura.
Peer pressure also popped up as a reason why the gang members resorted to terrorising their victims in Katutura. Apart from robbing people of their possessions, they also beat their victims, it was heard on Saturday.
Recently, one Boko Haram member died, following a feud with a member of another gang. Last week, at least 46 gangsters, mainly from Boko Haram, were arrested in an effort to stop their criminal activities, Katutura Central Constituency Councillor Ambrosuis Kandjii told New Era.
“We couldn’t detain them because we didn’t really have a case against them so we just profiled them by taking their photographs, fingerprints and tracking down their parents so that if anyone was attacked it would be easy to identify the gangs if they were shown the pictures,” Kandjii explained.
“We thought this is getting out of hand and we must do something,” Kandjii said.
As a result, the councillor together with Katutura Police Station Commander Philemon Tjitekulu called a meeting to gauge the gangsters’ views on how they would cease with their criminal activities.
During the meeting, some of the gangsters who are school dropouts said they wanted to go back to school. They dropped out for reasons including the lack of money to keep them in schools and poor school performance.
Many of the young men said they wanted to go back to school even just for vocational training.
As a way to discourage them from criminal activities, it was agreed that a sports tournament would soon take place where the criminals would compete against each other but not as gangs.
“If they compete as gangs we are not going to solve the problem. The aim is really to show them that they can be productive citizens and I want to call on the private sector and anybody who can to help us make this sports tournament a reality,” Kandjii pleaded.
A member of the Kasie 202 senior gang that terrorises people in the areas surrounding Katutura Central Constituency said he learnt from the meeting on Saturday on the importance of self-love and respect so that he does not continue with criminal activities that risk shortening his life.
“We as young people are faced with a lot of challenges such as unemployment and many of us are school dropouts and we do this out of peer-pressure,” said the member, who spoke to New Era on condition of anonymity.
Another 24-year-old man, who refused to reveal the identity of his gang, said he joined crime due to joblessness.
“I’m really asking God for forgiveness for all my wrongdoing. I am really looking for a job even if it is just to throw trash out of dustbins at a fee,” said the gangster with his face full of scars.
Windhoek Mayor Muesee Kazapua told the youngsters during the meeting that they need to be agents of positive change in their community. He also urged them to stop putting pressure on their parents to provide them with a good life while they cannot afford it.
“Many of your parents cannot afford the luxurious life that you want,” said Kazapua.