An open letter to our president: South Africa's own war

South Africa’s Very Own War

Dear Mr President

Re: Substance Abuse and Gangsterism

As the war between Gaza and Israel make headlines across the globe, I am saddened on how in our very own South Africa; we also face a daily war to combat substance abuse and gangsterism. Similar to the war in the Middle East, we face the killing of innocent victims, the devastations of families and friends who all have roots in the same devastating phenomenon of addiction and related gangsterism.

Our very own war like the Middle East has been at it, for years and generations with no end in sight. The root cause lies in the addiction to alcohol and / or drugs which is directly caused by socio economic issues and social ills. Communities live in a vicious cycle as many generations still fight a war different from the one in the Middle East but just as devastating.

By the time you have succeeded to kill or imprison all gangsters another youth would  alreadyhave seen this as a way of life and preparing to transition into the same lifestyle. It’s important to be aware that the youth is not deterred by the punishment given to their “role-model” instead it’s a willing sacrifice of a lifestyle they grew up with.

The topic was covered in gruesome detail in an episode on Carte Blanche aired on Sunday 20 July 2014 - season26 Episode65 of 69(S26/E69 of 65). In the episode they cover an area within Port Elizabeth where I grew up; the community reveals what a day in their lives is like.

Mr President, I would urge you to watch it to better understand the severity of our situation.

Upon reading the article titled “Plato questions Phyigas gang-plan “(

I am left appalled by this suggestion and left with the question “Does anyone really believe fighting violence with violence will eradicate the problem at hand?”

“Do those who are in power consider the very root cause of our issues? “”Do they come to realise the cause lies in our very deep rooted socio economic issues and social ills?” “Is there any weapon on earth which can remove it?”

Substance abuse does not end with having your last drink / smoke from a pipe filled with the substance of choice, but rather the sever problems to obtain said substances. Crime has a direct connection with our problems of drugs and gangs.

With an instance of hijacking crimes, has anyone stopped to think that it “Could just be another criminal looking to fund his next fix or be a gang initiation ritual?” I could quote many other examples but there  are too many to mention.

Mr President, you might ask where I am going with this and if the government has not done enough through its policing system, . I am afraid those measures are of a temporary nature. It is only a matter of time till the next youngster holds his first gun or one of our youth has his first puff of a methamphetamine (Tik as its commonly known) pipe.

A real change would come from enabling those with the right skills to reach out to our youth. Provide them with the opportunity to see what the world has to offer outside of their current circumstances.

Our social departments need to be mobilised with the correct government funding to enable them to reach out to our communities, instead of having a gang plan ( Would a Social Upliftment plan not be the answer?

The Social Upliftment plan should at a very minimum be for a duration of five years long. During this period these organisations should receive Full Funding from the government to support their goal of building better communities.

This struggle is close to home for me, my mom is a social worker and employed by SANCA and they face a daily struggle with funding. I have tried in my limited way to provide help in forms of donations of laptops. More often than not their subsidies are paid late, or not paid in full. They have been left a month without the ability to make calls.

One can ask the question: “Could a phone call have saved someone’s life or changed his life by reminding him/her of their next appointment?”

 Could this exact call have saved this person from hurrying to commit a crime to fund his next fix? Which in turn could save someone from being a victim of said crime to fund their drug habits?

My food for thought is, instead of drafting Gang Plans look at the root cause and see how it can be fixed. I am not expecting miracles.

 As they say “Rome was not build in one day” Im not expecting changes overnight but imagine a youth that  is given a purpose in life other than being part of a gang or using drugs. Building community centres providing sport/social/ job opportunities. Every human being has a need to socialise and by providing the youth with a healthy environment, chances of a job and to vent frustration by playing a sport. Is this not an effort in the right direction?

A mother who can drop her baby at a community centre with the child being taken care of by the elders of the community without the exponential cost of day care centres. This will enable her to find a job and in turn change the life of her child to not be a victim of a gang plan, a step to prevent them from falling in the same trap of gangsterism and substance abuse. Is this not an effective way of eradicating gangs/drugs in the future?

By curbing this demand, you tackle the supply. Have our country not had enough drug mules risking their lives to attain said supply. I am not alluding to drug demand ever being zero (one can only hope) but a difference one day at a time would surely be better than trying to negotiate lesser sentences for drug mules in foreign prisons.

My version of a plan, charity begins at home as much as we sympathise with Gaza and Israel we cry daily as South Africans for loss of life, dreams and youth.

1.       Provide the current social structures in society with the financial support(full government funding) to fully execute their tasks

2.       Establish a 5 year plan with them to build and uplift


Candice Potgieter

(written with the hope of improving our future )

*Kindly note the letter and contents are the opinion of the author only.