Gangs in South Africa started to appear in the 1950s following the first expulsions during the Apartheid of coloured people from the city centres to the peripheries. Uprooted from their homes and families and with no police system to turn to, people within neighbourhoods began to organise their own protection. This led to the formation of violent gangs who provided protection in exchange for money, as well as engaging in different activities such as illegal alcohol sales, prostitution and car thefts. It is estimated that there are now over 100 gangs operating in the Cape Peninsula with more than 100,000 gang members .
With the end of Apartheid, gangs started to form alliances with Nigerian and Chinese criminal groups for the production and sale of heroin, Mandrax and tik (methamphetamine). They sell the drugs in their own communities and neighbourhoods, further exacerbating the existing fragility caused by unemployment and poverty of those places. One of the larger gangs operating in Cape Town is the Americans (they love the American flag, easy money and the bling of rappers). The gangs (with names like Mongrels, Playboys, Naughty Boys, Hard Livings, Junkie Funkies and Corner Boys) are periodically at war with each other to take control of ‘territories’. They have stockpiles of arms and they use them. All police strategies to tackle the gang problem have failed and gangs are now considered some sort of a culture in South Africa. This is especially so in Cape Town, which continually rates amongst the top five cities in the world for number of murders per year; murders that are directly attributable to the gangs.