SPECIAL ASSIGNMENT FINDER FINDER: 05/05/2009 SASHA WALES-SMITH INTRO: UPS: - VOICER - How violent are you? UPS: - 16 years old Gangster - Do you know a snake? A cobra? The cobra cannot bite you straight . I t is coming to you at an angle at the back. Like a cobra, like a snake. UPS: - VOICER - At the age of 14 he raped for the first time, and by 16 he’s armed and ready to kill. More than a quarter of young South Africans think it is Ok to steal from the rich, and ten percent agree that a man can force himself on a woman. In a country riddled with crime, young people in South Africa are growing up in a cycle of violence.. and there’s a fine line between being a victim and becoming a perpetrator. FINDER-FINDER UPS: VOICER - It is 11 o’clock in the morning at the home of a notorious criminal on the East Rand. The gang is gathering to plan their next attack. They regularly recruit kids to take part in their hits. We spoke to three boys who began committing crimes from a very early age. Before the age of 16, they’ve already executed hideous crimes… rape, murder, and torture. UPS: 16 Years old Gangster - If I do not smoke my day is miserable because in my body there is something shocking that it is supposed to smoke. I can do anything, even I will kill you if you have R40.00 UPS: VOICER – Drugs like heroin – have driven them from being petty thieves to hardened criminals. UPS: 16 Years old Gangster - now I can say that in the township we call in Finder Finder. I do any job so long as I know I will get money. Finder finder, even now you can come and let us go and hijack a car. Do you have the tools? Ja, I have the tools, so let us go. Because I am always hungry. They call me “ Malambana” that is my nick name. So right now I am doing hijack, house break in and here in township robbing people. Because I am supposed to smoke everyday. UPS: VOICER - Their tools are simple. These spark plugs are called “bombs” and when they hit glass, it shatters instantly. The boys use them for “smash and grabs” and car theft. Growing up in families, where they were abused or neglected, pushed these boys to a life of crime. Violence was the norm, rather than the exception. UPS: 16 Years old Gangster - Eish mam, it is my stepfather mam. Most days he beat my mother and my two kid sisters. That broke me. It broke my heart. A LOT. What did he used to do? Come at night drunk, try to rape my mother man. (SHAKES HEAD) beating my mother. That make me sad man and strong at the other side. Sad and strong? Yes at the other side. To steal a lot. UPS: VOICER - Before long, they picked up deadlier weapons. UPS: When did you start doing house break ins? UPS: 15 Years old Gangster - I was 10 years old. UPS: VOICER - What made you to start? UPS: 15 Years old Gangster – It was after my father died. My family did not agree with me. They just leave me,. They see me just like I am a fool, they did not give me money just to buy some clothes. And my friends has some nice clothes, expensive clothes, and then me I do not wear those expensive clothes. UPS: VOICER - A stash of ammunition is hidden at the back of the house, but their gun is kept separately. Growing up amongst people who break the law – in “thug life” - makes criminal activity seem normal or even cool. UPS: 15 Years old Gangster – A gun I started picking a gun when I was 12. My brother was a thug life he used to come with a car, a police car use to come looking for him. Their gun I know where they put it and so sometimes I would take it and go and do my thing with my friends. We tried to rob a person and the he was greedy for us and shoot, but it was a mistake because when the gun went ”POW” I lost the gun and then my friend run and I took the gun and run. I did not see where I shoot this person. When I see the person go down killed. UPS: VOICER – And how did that make you feel? UPS: 15 Years old Gangster – Eish even now when I sit like this I still remember that day as if it is happening, but it is not happening. I am sitting, but in my mind it is happening. UPS: VOICER- We joined them as they headed out to show us how they operate as an armed gang. They describe their criminal activities as “jobs”…. And a way to beat poverty. It helps justify their actions. UPS: 15 Years old Gangster – My mother does not work. I do not have a father. UPS: VOICER - And what does she say about you are doing? UPS: 15 Years old Gangster – Nothing. I think that she would say that “ I am proud” UPS- VOICER – Why is she proud? UPS: 15 Years old Gangster – Because my mother does not have money, she does not have money. But every day I can bring food at the table to was for my sisters and my mother to eat and for to pay the school fees for my sisters. UPS: VOICER - Youth intentionally consume alcohol and drugs before doing a “job” to get the necessary courage and conviction to execute the task. Like child soldiers, when they are high…they can rape and kill …numbed to any feelings or guilt for their actions. Here they are staking out a house. UPS: VOICER- In the moment what does it feel like? UPS: 15 Years old Gangster - At the moment I feel nothing because I am in hurry. I am suppose to get out of there before you, he or she arrive. I am supposed to be out. But when I am sitting in the township my mind will come that person is a human being like me even though he is white or black, but he is a human being like me. And this is hurting is in my heart any you know what is helping me is the drug. When I think about it, I start smoking drugs and I forget it. UPS: - VOICER - A significant proportion of our youth are growing up desensitized to violence…. And a feeling of social exclusion, means that they gravitate easily to a life of crime. UPS: GANGSTER 16 Years old – I meet you in the street and I am taking your chain, I an taking your bag and I am taking your money. All the things that are important for you then I am taking. And if you do not want then I will bet you see. With something with a weapon or if I have a gun I will shoot you see. Then I go and take that money and I go, those particulars I just leave, I just want money. You see. UPS: VOICER - This child is four years old. As an 18 month old toddler he was kidnapped and tortured by two 11 year old boys After pouring boiling water over his face and genitals, they peeled the skin off the back of his head. They poked his mouth with pins and rubbed chillies into his wounds. He was brought to the NGO, Children of Fire, which assists children with severe burn injuries. UPS: - BRONWEN: One in three in children has been burnt intentionally. That can be a spouse throwing something at the other one and the child doesn’t understand what is going on and so they don’t get out of the way in time and so it can be hot water, it can be a paraffin stove there are sadly quite a lot of people who do burns as punishment. They put hands on stoves as punishment, even though they have got electric stoves, or to teach them not to touch it. UPS: VOICER - The children here are all victims of the poverty and violence that stalks this country. Hurt by their families or communities, their scars bear stark testimony to a cycle of neglect and abuse…. Which has left other many young people emotionally and psychologically wounded. Beyond the medical attention they receive here, Bronwen’s main aim is to build self-esteem UPS: - BRONWEN - The kids must leave this place feeling like they can do anything, any job open to them, and they will have to understand how society will react to their scars and get passed it and they do. UPS: VOICER - We could not identify the child or his family, because of his injuries and the stigma he may have to endure as he grows up. UPS: GRANDMOTHER - I will tell him my child one day we were visiting in Mabopane, and this is what happened. There were some naughty boys who did this to you. I must tell him. And one other thing that I am scared of is he will be going to school and the other children might laugh at him. He is going to feel like an outcast, what is going to happen with him? UPS: VOICER - They had gone to Mabopane in Pretoria to celebrate two family members getting a job. When a neighbour’s child came to ask Seiso to play …. She let him go. When she went to fetch him, a boy’s voice said that he was sleeping. UPS: GRANDMOTHER - I could smells oil from the house and I was asking myself what is happening inside the house? I went to the front door of the house. When I get there the door was also locked. UPS: VOICER - For over an hour she tried to get in. Panicked, she got a man to force an entry.. where they found Seiso wrapped in a blanket. UPS: GRANDMOTHER - When I saw him that he has been burnt and now he skin was changing becoming green. I screamed loud and terrified asking people what have they done to my child. I wanted to hold him but I could not as his body was full of oil. I cried and screamed a lot because I could not hold him and I did not understand what was happening in the house. I took the coat dress that I was wearing, I wrapped him and I ran to the clinic. I can’t cope anymore with this thing. I don’t know why these children do this to Seiso cos they didn’t know Seiso or where he was coming from. I hate them I hate them I can’t even cope. I can’t even get out of the house. I just sit and watch the TV. I can’t even go out and search for work or do nothing. I can’t sleep. UPS: VOICER - The two boys pleaded guilty to attempted murder and were last month sentenced to five years in the Emthonjeni Juvenile Detention Centre. Only their age, kept them from serving a harsher sentence. A psychological assessment of the accused showed the older boy was generally violent, and the other had a history of sniffing glue and shoplifting. The extremity of the case made national headlines, and raises terrifying questions: are offenders getting younger and more brutal? UPS: VOICER - Juvenile crime is on the increase in South Africa. Last year, police arrested between 11 and 14 thousand children under the age of 18. On the one hand there is a call to be tougher on crime, on the other, children’s rights must be kept in mind. UPS: - ANN SKELTON: CENTRE FOR CHILD LAW - I would say that there is a way to break the cycle and that is to see offending amongst children as an opportunity to intervene and to try and do the right intervention to try and help the child to deal with whatever it is that is bringing them into criminal activity. UPS:VOICER - This is the Mogale Youth Detention Centre in Gauteng.. a secure unit for kids aged between 14 – 18, who are awaiting trial. Run by the Department of Social Development, they try to address complex reasons why children turn to crime. UPS: LEKGORO – GAUTENG MEC FOR SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT - In our facilities we try to rehab the children while they are on trial. We only hold them for as long as they are on trial. in that way we are able to save the child and help the child to mend their ways to avoid prison that could have made him even a harder person UPS:VOICER - They offer many kinds of skills training to try and provide the youth here with ways of building self-esteem, instilling positive values and earning a living. UPS: LEKOGORO – GAUTENG MEC FOR SOC DEVELOPMENT. - I am by no means advocating that those who commit crime should not be punished. I think that perhaps should know that they are doing it at their own risk. Having said that there is a real sit for this category of children that we are dealing with where we cannot with a clear conscious stand out there and ignore their real backgrounds, their real objective conditions in their communities that push them towards these activities and those are things that we must address. UPS:VOICER - There is a move amongst Child Justice experts to try and keep children out of prison. Teenagers are still in the process of social and emotional development so it is possible to change antisocial behaviour. UPS: - ANN SKELTON: -Well 70% of crimes that are committed by children are not serious or violent and so when we are looking at percentages, we know that theft is the most common crime that is committed and obviously poverty is playing a role in that. House break-in is also fairly common and of course that is more serious. But the murder, rape and armed robbery sections this is only about 30% of the crimes committed by children UPS: VOICER - She believes that prison in this country is just ware-housing a problem and does not make children responsible for their actions. UPS: - ANN SKELTON- what I have experienced after years of visiting children in prisons is that they begin to see themselves as victims. They are actually there cos they are offenders, but at the end of the day they begin to feel that what is happening to them is harsher than what they originally did and so they begin to see themselves as victims of the system. UPS: VOICER - The new Child Justice Bill will be rolled out from April next year. The law will place most of the 100 thousand children who annually enter the criminal justice system.. in the hands of NGOs, whose diversion programmes have so far seen only one in every 10 children re-offend. UPS: ANN SKELTON: - Diversion is a way of holding children accountable for crimes that they have committed without taking them through the CJ sys. This has the benefit of them not getting a criminal record, but also links them with services that they actually need. UPS: VOICER - This type of justice hopes to have more success at breaking the cycle of crime than prison. NGOs like Khulisa are already implementing these principles in their “Silence the Violence” programme. UPS: - NANETTE MINNAAR – KHULISA - the main goal of the silence the violence programe is an aggressive behaviour change programe. Though we would like to make children or participants aware of their behaviour of violence – especially the three levels of violence being: verbal, emotional and physical violence, but also understand their cycle of violence. Where it originated and why they are involved in criminal activities and also empower them to stop violating. UPS: VOICER - This is not seen as a soft option. Forcing youngsters to face their victims and feeling the wrath of the community is far harder for a teenager than being locked up with their peers. diversion programmes intervene before youngsters become serial offenders. UPS: - NANETTE MINNAAR – KHULISA - The biggest problem with petty crimes is that if children do not take responsibility for committing those crimes they will do again and if they are not responsible for this crimes, they it will leas to them committing serious crime. UPS: VOICER - But with rising poverty and without support from communities, violent crime amongst our youth will continue to escalate. END If you have story suggestion or video clips please send them to: Truth@sabc.co.za.