Manenberg is a coloured township outside Cape Town and was constructed as a social experiment by the apartheid government during the 1960s as part of the group areas act, a political project based on ideas of racial separation.
Today, after the breakdown of apartheid and the transition into a democratic society, the consequences of these racial policies are still unmistakable on the streets of Manenberg.
Life in Manenberg is hard for the young, violence and crime plays a central role in day-to-day life. Unemployment
is high and the frustration amongst the young people of Manenberg affects the local community resulting in a high rate of domestic and sexual violence, teenage pregnancies and drug abuse. Gangs with names such as the American’s, Clever Kids, Jesters, Hard Living, Dixie Boys, and Vikings command territories are notorious for
serious criminal acts. The gangs start recruiting kids from the age of 11, with most becoming active gang members at the age of 14. With well-paid employment difficult to come by for coloured South Africans, drug smuggling, theft and other illicit activities are a lucrative alternative to regular employment.
Evidence of neediness is rife in the community, queues form outside the local charity feeding stations offering one meal a week on a first-come-first-served basis. Both local primary and secondary schools also offer a free meals service for children who are disadvantaged either through neglect or poverty.
Racism is still very much an issue in South Africa, but prejudice is now directed towards the coloured communities. The most frequently heard complaint amongst coloured people of Manenberg is, not ‘white enough’ under apartheid and are not ‘black enough’ in the new democracy.