AJCR 2020/2

Examining the potential of Conditional Cash Transfer for stemming Cape Flats Gang violence: A Directional Policy research project

Dr Joseph Olusegun Adebayo is a Post-doctoral Fellow in the Journalism and Media Studies Department, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town, South Africa. Dr Blessing Makwambeni is a Senior Lecturer in the Journalism and Media Studies Department, Cape Peninsula University of Technology.


Many low and middle-income countries have either implemented or considered conditional or unconditional cash transfers to poor households as a means of alleviating poverty. Evidence from pilot schemes in many developed and developing economies, including those in Africa, suggests that cash transfers do not only alleviate poverty; they also promote social cohesion and reduce the propensity for violent responses. For example, studies have shown a direct impact of cash transfers on Intimate Partner Violence (IPV). In some studies, the rate of IPV (including emotional violence) was significantly reduced when one of the partners was a beneficiary of cash transfer. However, there are limited studies on the potential of Conditional Cash Transfers (CCTs) for stemming gang violence. Our study contributes to filling this gap. We examine here the possibilities of conditional cash transfers for stemming intractable gang-related violence in the Cape Flats. 

The situation on the Cape Flats 

Studies (Hidrobo and Fernald 2013; Crost, Felter and Johnston 2014; Idris 2017; Buller et al. 2018) suggest that the effects of social protection initiatives, such as (un)conditional cash transfers and vouchers, on social cohesion and poverty alleviation are generally positive. Although there are concerns (Idris 2017:1) that the policy can unwittingly create divisions between beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries, the overarching summation is that it helps to foster social cohesion, reduce violence and stem poverty. Conditional Cash Transfers include all forms of cash and in-kind transfers, such as school feeding and public works programmes. It is often proposed for vulnerable households, refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), with the objectives of reducing their exposure to emotional shocks and their recourse to negative coping strategies, and of strengthening social cohesion (Cooper 2018:23). 

South Africa currently operates a social grants programme as a means of cash transfer, albeit unconditional. It is part of an extensive benefits system which goes to children, people with disabilities and elderly people. The country has one of Africa’s largest social grant programmes. According to Webb and Vally (2020), eighteen million people in South Africa depend on social grants, with 20% of households depending on grants as their main source of income. It has to be added, however, that there are no unemployment grants for adults. 

While the public discourse on social grants is often critical and negative, research indicates that social grants have had a tremendous and noticeably positive socio-economic impact on poverty and inequality in South Africa. In a study conducted by Bhorat and Cassim (2014), they found that an estimated 76 per cent of government spending on social grants is received by the poorest 40 per cent of the population. They also found that the 2005–2010 expansion of the state’s social security system to include more grants for the elderly and child support, has increased the levels of expenditure of the poor and contributed to declining household inequality. Also, grants have been found to improve the quality and quantity of food in recipient households (Williams 2004), reduce the likelihood of drugs and alcohol use in children who received grants early in life (Department of Social Development 2012), reduce adolescent pregnancy (Heinrich, Hoddinott and Samson 2012:620), as well as reduce sexual behaviour that put adolescent girls at extreme risk of contracting HIV (Cluver et al. 2013:362).  

Despite the scheme’s relative ‘success’, questions have been raised on whether or not there should be some form of conditionality attached to the grants (Lund et al. 2008:2). According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) (2003), connecting conditions to social security interventions tends to positively support the individual in, for example, a return to work characterised by significant state financial commitment. Our study advocates a measure of conditionality attached to the proposed cash transfer. We examine the potential of Conditional Cash Transfers (CCTs) in stemming the intractable gang violence that has plagued South Africa’s Western Cape Province specifically, and the country in general. We argue for a negotiated conditional cash transfer (as will be discussed in detail in later sections) that will require some form of behavioural modification from beneficiaries. Our position for conditionality is similar to that held by Lund and others (2008:2), who argue that increased demands for HIV/AIDS and Foster Child grants in many countries have indicated that the idea of conditionality is gaining favour. 

The intractable violence 

Scholars are at variance on an acceptable definition of gangs. There is, however, a consensus amongst researchers on the criteria for whether a group is a gang or not. The two widely accepted rules are age ‒ generally adolescents (14-24) – and the engagement in law-violating behaviour (Esbensen et al. 2001:106). Although Huff (1998) puts the typical age range of gang members at 14 to 24 years of age, researchers have generally agreed that the age range can be adapted ‘downward’ or ‘upward’. It depends on a variety of factors. Children as young as ten or adults as old as 30 do belong to gangs. There are also ongoing debates on institutional and political meanings of the word ‘gang’. Meehan (2000:338) argues that groups are partly fictions, and that terms like ‘gang’ and ‘gang-team’ (as used by the police) are often misused to the point that every activity in which young people engage can be called gang activity. 

In recent years, the protracted gang violence that has plagued the Cape Flats in the Western Cape Province has received extensive media coverage. It has also prompted a national discourse about the remote and immediate cause(s), as well as appropriate policy response(s) to stem or mitigate the menace. Petersen (2019) estimates that there are about 30 significant gangs in Cape Town alone. Among the biggest groupings are the Americans, the 28s, the Mongrels, the Terrible Josters and the Junky Funky Kids. There are also countless splinter groups with memberships of tens to thousands, each associated with one of the significant gangs. 

In July 2019, at the peak of the gang violence, the South African government deployed members of the South African Defence Force (SANDF) to quell what had become an extraordinary bloody spate of gang violence. Justifying the deployment of SANDF to the affected communities, Police Minister Bheki Cele, while addressing the South African Parliament, remarked thus:

In recent years, the tide of crime in the country has revealed a dreadful trend. We [are] confronted with the sad reality of multiple burial activities. The scenes of dead bodies in Philippi, [and] Mitchells Plain is unbearable. I challenge all generals in SAPS to surrender their uniforms if this situation does not improve. The battle requires a dedicated force that is equal to the task (Lindwa 2019). 

In the past, a military invasion, or even mere suggestions of military deployment, would have sparked public outrage and also prompted protests. Sightings of men in uniform around black and coloured communities often evoke deep emotions and resentments. At its peak, the apartheid government used the military and police to suppress agitations for equality and calls for an end to the segregation that apartheid represented. The context has been different this time. According to De Greef (2019), when the first batch of soldiers arrived in Mitchells Plain, people did not hide or erupt in protest as many would have done decades ago when the army was a symbol of subjugation and white minority rule. Instead, residents rushed from their homes to welcome the troops. 

In many ways, Mitchells Plain is a microcosm of the bigger problem of insecurity and violence across the Western Cape specifically, and South Africa in general. According to the Citizens’ Council for Public Safety and Criminal Justice (2019), the police recorded more than 2 800 murders in 2018, with the country’s homicide rate of about 66 killings per 100 000 people ranking among the highest in the world. 

Decades of government neglect and high unemployment have contributed to a proliferation in gang-related activities in some communities in the Western Cape. In 2013 the Police estimated that there are over 100 000 gang members in the city of over 4 million people. Gang-related conflicts led to 900 murders in 2019, more than the annual total for 2018. The root cause of the bloodshed lies in the decades of apartheid’s social engineering, during which the Cape Flats lacked funding, quality education and police resources (Bax, Sguazzin and Vecchiatto 2019).  

Socio-economic and socio-cultural underpinnings of gang violence

It would be rather one-dimensional to attribute gang violence only to economic deprivation. There are many underlying causal factors for social violence. The biosocial theory, for instance, attempts to identify the biological determinants of crime and violence. Wilson (1975) argued that people are biosocial organisms whose behaviours are influenced by both their physical characteristics and environmental conditions. Modern biosocial theorists believe that physical, ecological and social conditions interact in complex ways to produce human behaviour (see Englander 2007; Ellis 2005; Fischbein 2001; Yaralian and Raine 2001). 

Taylor (2013:340) conducted a study which examined why American boys joined gangs and found nine primary reasons: the recruiter was friendly and encouraging toward them; the group offered safety and protection from other groups; the potential gang member viewed the recruiters and socialisers as very accepting of them; belonging to a gang was regarded as a quick path to gaining respect from other youth in the community; the member being recruited felt that membership in the gang would enhance his masculinity and reputation of being tough; the possibility of making money, owning a car and having positive attention from girls; the opportunity for delinquency and violence as a release of frustrations common to adolescence; the chance to have fun by committing delinquent acts with other delinquent peers; and the chance to participate in activities that allow for temporary escape by acting out frustrations that stem from the family. 

In the context of our study, however, we examine the impact of economic deprivation on gang-related violence in the Western Cape. One of the biggest challenges plaguing South Africa is the high rate of unemployment. According to Statistics South Africa (2019), unemployment is common amongst youths (aged 15-34). According to the report, almost 4 in every ten young people in the labour force did not have a job. Also, the unemployment rate within this group was 39.6% in the first quarter of 2019. 

According to Statistics South Africa (2019): 

The burden of unemployment is mostly amongst the youth. The youth account for 63.5% of the total number of unemployed persons. The unemployment rate among the youth is higher irrespective of education level. The graduate unemployment rate was 33.5% for those aged 15–24 and 10.2% among those aged 25–34 years, while the rate among adults (aged 35–64 years) was 4.7%. Just over 30% of the youth have jobs, and about half of them participate in the labour market. Within the youth, those aged 15–24 years are more vulnerable in the labour market with an unemployment rate of over 52%, an absorption rate of about 12.2% and a labour force participation rate of 25.6%. 

It is important to state that we are not assuming that providing skills to gang members (and to a large extent the wider public) will solve the unemployment problem in South Africa. There are many ‘skilled’ graduates and matriculants without work. The unemployment crisis is deeper than ‘skills acquisition’ alone can reasonably solve. However, in the context of our study, we advocate skills training and acquisition as alternative avenues where gang members (or intending gang members) can expend energy while learning valuable life skills that could potentially make them self-employed. 

Conflict theorists (Bonger 1969; Marx 1967 [1885]; Taylor et al. 1973) have explored the direct or indirect link between economic conditions and crime. Hagan (1994) argues that inequality among youth can reduce self-esteem and foster the development of a negative self-image, which in turn can lead to criminal behaviour. According to Braithwaite (1979), when young people get involved in illicit activities like gang violence, they are not only motivated by the short-term ‘gains’ they may derive but more by the feelings of social competence and increased self-esteem that come with belonging to a gang. In his 1979 thesis on powerlessness, Braithwaite (1979:68) asserts that:

Delinquent and criminal acts are an attempt to make a mark on the world, to be noticed, to get identity feedback …  [F]or the powerless, crime and delinquency are a desperate effort to make things happen, to assert control.

Although economic deprivation (whether real or perceived) is a significant cause of violence, including gang-related violence, it is nonetheless imprudent to ascribe all forms of violent behaviour to one’s economic state. For example, Baird (2018:189) avers that whilst socio-economic exclusion impacts on the prevalence of gang-related activities in a particular area, the majority of young men who join gangs do it to emulate and reproduce ‘successful’ local male identities. Baird describes the aspiration to ‘manhood’ as the desire by young men to accumulate what he termed ‘masculine capital’ ‒ the material and symbolic signifiers of manhood, which lead many young men to perceive gangs to be the spaces of male success. In South Africa, the quest for masculine capital runs significantly deep. According to Harris and Vermaak (2015:46), one of the consequences of apartheid’s policy of segregation was the break-up of families. Fathers had to travel long distances for work, and could sometimes only return home after weeks or months away. Consequently, high proportions of children grew up without a male role model. Gang leaders unwittingly filled the vacuum of missing fathers or father figures. 

Studies have also linked gang involvement to race and ethnicity (Esbensen and Tusinski 2007; Vigil 2002). According to Feng (2019), past research on the links between race or ethnicity and gang involvement in the context of America has focused on racially homogenous gangs ‒ African American and Hispanic groups ‒ thereby perpetuating the perception of gangs as only dominant within certain racial/ethnic groups. Recent studies have however shown that gangs are multiracial. Studies have also shown that social disorganisation, discrimination, immigration and cumulative disadvantage impact on the propensity to join gangs. The disorganisation and discrimination fostered by apartheid in South Africa could explain why gangs in South Africa often thrive in particular racial or ethnic communities.

The impact of drug use and trade 

One of the major catalysts for the intractable Cape Flats gangs’ violence is the proliferation of drugs. Street gangs are the primary distributors of illegal drugs on the streets of Cape Town. Most gangs make millions from selling illegal drugs, and use the proceeds to pay stipends to gang members, thereby keeping them loyal. Gangs also use the proceeds from the drug trade to operate cash-based businesses such as barbershops, music stores, restaurants, catering services, tattoo parlours ‒ usually as a means to commingle drug proceeds with funds generated through legitimate commerce. Prinsloo and Bax (2020) aver that the heroin trade alone is estimated to be worth $260 million a year. 

According to Prinsloo and Bax (2020), at the peak of the novel coronavirus pandemic, a network of gang leaders in the country known as the Council made funds available to gang members and their families to mitigate the harsh effects of the lockdown. The network even sensitised the public on ways to prevent the spread of the virus, further confirming the immense influence gangs (leaders and followers) wield in their communities. 

Existing Studies

Limited studies, but available reports and theories

Although studies that examine the potential of CCTs to stem gang-related violence are limited, findings from related studies suggest CCTs can play significant roles in reducing the propensity to violent behaviour by beneficiaries. For example, Buller and others (2018) undertook a mixed-method study that reviewed the impact of cash transfers on Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) in low and middle-income countries and concluded that CCTs have the potential to decrease IPV at the margins across large populations of vulnerable groups. Significantly, they found that CCTs appear to reduce physical and sexual IPV more consistently than emotional abuse or controlling behaviours. Buller and others (2018:11) concluded that CCT does impact positively on IPV, at least in their study’s milieu, but admitted that CCTs might have different impacts on different types of violence. 

Comparable studies exploring the effects of CCTs on domestic violence

Hidrobo and Fernald (2013) conducted a study which examined the impact cash transfers had on domestic violence. Their research focused on the Bono de Desarrollo Humano (BDH) scheme in Ecuador. The programme designed as a CCT consisted of giving mothers a monthly stipend if their children met specific schooling and health requirements. The project, however, became equivalent to an unconditional cash transfer due to administrative constraints. The cash transfer (which was $15 a month in 2005) did not depend on the number of children in the household. Hidrobo and Fernald found that mothers’ (recipients’) levels of education played a significant role in how cash transfers impacted their relationships. They found that for mothers with more than six years of schooling, the BDH significantly decreased the probability that a husband or partner would engage in emotional violence by 8 per cent, and would increase his control of behaviour by 14 per cent. Where mothers had six years or less of schooling, however, the BDH effect on domestic violence was ‘ambiguous’. For households where the mothers’ years of education were equal to or more than their partners’, the BDH significantly increased emotional violence by 9 per cent (Hidrobo and Fernald 2013:317). 

Other studies also show significant impacts of cash transfers on violent behaviour. Bobonis and Castro (2010) examined the effect of Oportunidades, Mexico’s CCT programme on domestic violence. They found both short-term and long-term effects. In the short run (2-6 years), there was a decrease in physical abuse by 3.6 per cent. However, between 5-9 years after the programme’s implementation, they found that the effects disappeared. Peru’s CCT programme named Juntas had a similar impact as Oportunidades in Mexico. According to Perova (2010), the programme significantly decreased physical violence by 9 per cent and emotional abuse by 11 per cent.

A comparable study exploring the effects of CCTs on militia violence

The Niger Delta Amnesty programme in Nigeria is arguably one of the largest (in terms of the number of beneficiaries) CCTs implemented in Africa. According to Timsar (2018), approximately 30 000 people in the Niger Delta enrolled in the amnesty programme.  The amnesty’s goal was to stem growing agitations and violence from indigenes of the region (mostly youths). They decried the negative impact the activities of Multi-National Oil Corporations (MNOCs) had on environmental and socio-economic life in the area. Decades after oil exploration began in the Niger Delta, the region was bedevilled by environmental degradation/contamination, chronic poverty, unemployment, rural-urban migration, and human rights abuses (Adebayo and Matsilele 2019). 

A military approach to quelling agitation by the Nigerian government did not provide lasting peace in the region. Instead, it led to increased dissatisfaction from the populace, which led to more violence. Acknowledging the ineffectuality of an aggressive approach to providing lasting and sustainable peace in the Niger Delta region, the Nigerian government initiated a CCT programme. The programme required agitators to renounce militancy, surrender their weapons, and submit to an exhaustive process of disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR). Opinions differ on the success or otherwise of the amnesty programme. For example, Adeyemo and Olu-Adeyemi (2010:7) questioned the rationale behind the Amnesty offer to militants by the Federal Government, when there was never a plan laid out to resolve the lingering problems of endemic poverty and environmental degradation in the region. 

Examining the potential of CCTs and DDR to reduce the Cape Flats gang violence

We do not intend to delve into the intractable polemics for or against the amnesty initiative. The amnesty as a form of CCT was of interest to us because of its slight similarity with our research focus on gang-related violence in the Western Cape. Firstly, it could be seen as a means of assuaging and stemming visible outbreaks of violence. Secondly, conditions similar to those that obtain in our study area have led to militancy in the Niger Delta ‒ mostly involving a youthful segment of the population who partly hinged their agitations on poverty and [perceived] feelings of relative deprivation and inequality.  

It is pertinent to state that we do not intend to slant the study towards causal reductionism. The social malaise of gang violence results from many reasons often contriving together, and not from single causes. We are also mindful of the fact that cash transfer, whether conditional or unconditional, is primarily a policy tool to respond to poverty, inequality and vulnerability. We are also aware of the unlikelihood of large-scale institutional programming with the specific objective of decreasing gang violence. However, as averred by Hidrobo and Fernald (2013:317), if small design changes have the potential to stem or reduce violence in any form, transfer programmes could have the scope to realise significant gains across sectors. Moreover, transfer programmes can be implemented at a lower cost than force specific programming, such as the recent military deployment to the Cape Flats.  

Our study examines the general supposition that every progress towards violence reduction is significant, no matter how ‘little.’ If CCT can stem gang violence in our study area, then we argue that it would provide the necessary environment to tackle the critical structural and historical problems that often increase gang membership and fuel violent gang behaviour. 

A proposal for gathering relevant data and implementing conditional cash transfers 

Given the central aim of the study, to examine the potential of conditional cash transfer in stemming the Cape Flats gang violence, we put forward an action research intervention approach to policy implementation. Suffice to add that the action research intervention is simply a proposal for what we believe is the most appropriate methodology to adopt. Implementers can adjust the methodology to suit specific contexts. Action research is an integration of research and action in a series of elastic cycles which have to do with the collection of data, the analysing of the data, the planning and introduction of actionable strategies to initiate positive change(s), and the evaluation of those changes through the collection of more data, analysis and interpretation (Somekh 2006:7). 

Stages in the proposed intervention

Action research cycles typically develop through the following phases: identifying a problem that needs intervention, collecting, organising, analysing, and interpreting data; and taking action based on this information (Sax and Fisher 2001:72). Figure 1 below shows the stages involved in action research adopted by us.

Figure 1: The action research process 

Adapted from: Action Research Process no date.

Problem Identification 

The success of any successful intervention is dependent on accurate identification of the main problem which requires intervention. Given the main aim of intervention to effect change in a given situation, it becomes essential to first identify the condition(s) that require(s) change. In the case of this study, we note the rise in gang-related violence in some communities in the Western Cape, prompting the deployment of members of the South African National Defence Force. Given that the process also involves seeking to understand the nature of the situation and ascertaining the underlying causal factors, we recommend preliminary interviews with purposively selected stakeholders in the communities. The proposed stakeholders include religious leaders, community heads, educators, leaders of youth organisations, and gangsters. The discussions will stir-up or generate specific questions that will form the fulcrum of the intervention. Given the immense influence gangsters have on local communities, it is pertinent to include gangsters as key stakeholders in the entire process of developing and implementing a programme. 

Data Gathering 

We propose an intervention process that emanates from the communities, thereby providing a sense of community ownership of the process. Often, governments and private individuals or organisations have good intentions when they plan and implement interventions. Still, as noted by Hughes (2018:62), good intentions and the smartest of expert interventions alone are not enough to transform lives. Following suggestions by Fraenkel and Wallen (2003:41), we recommend two main phases of data collection before the project’s implementation. Although Fraenkel and Wallen’s suggestions were in the context of action research within an educational setting, we believe it has profound applicability to this study. 

First, Fraenkel and Wallen (2003:41) suggest a process of observation of participants involved in the study. In the case of an educational setting, they state that these participants might include students, other teachers, parents, and administrators. To describe what is seen and heard, they suggest that researchers use field notes or journals to record their observations. For our intervention, we recommend a period of participant observation involving a team made up of purposively selected stakeholders in the community, members of the Department of Social Development (DSD), and members of the allied security forces (preferably the police). We recommend observation for some time as agreed upon by all members, but typically not less than three months. The period of observation will allow the team to observe the remote and immediate triggers of gang violence. It will also provide researchers with information regarding, for instance, the leaders of the gangs, the recruitment process, the incentives provided by recruiters, the activities that gang members get involved in when they are not within the groups, the family dynamics, and the economic ecosystems. 

The period of observation will also provide team members with the opportunity to negotiate cash transfer conditionality with community members. Davis and others (2012) argue that cash transfers, especially in Africa, are not, and should not be, unilaterally determined by politicians. They argue for a process of ‘soft conditionality’ which allows beneficiaries and their wider community to be informed about the objectives of the programme. The idea is that when people know why the programme’s implementation is necessary and why they are receiving cash, there is a greater likelihood that the programme will achieve its set goals. 

Fraenkel and Wallen (2003:42) also suggest the use of interviews to collect relevant data before interventions. Typically, interviews are mostly interpersonal and involve an oral exchange of questions and answers between two or more people. As stated earlier, interviews should be conducted with key stakeholders during the period of observation ‒ to gauge their feelings of the proposed intervention and welcome suggestions that are specific to their community’s needs. 

Thirdly, Fraenkel and Wallen (2003:43) recommend the analysis of existing records as another way of gathering data for action research. They believe it is convenient, and often the least time-consuming since such data have already been collected. The responsibility of team members is to make as much sense as possible of what is already there. A few examples of this type of data are school attendance records, minutes of meetings, newspaper features and editorials, policy manuals, and police records. 

Data interpretation 

Once the data is obtained during the period of participant observation, team members must take time out to analyse the data and arrive at reasonable conclusions that will guide the direction of the intervention. During the process of data analysis, the team should identify the significant themes that emerge from the data and the reasons why they played out in particular ways. Analysing data helps the team to acquire an improved understanding of the occurrence under investigation ‒ in this case, the remote and immediate causes of gang violence in the given communities ‒ and as a result, helps to formulate an appropriate cash transfer policy that is community-specific. 

Policy implications and recommendations

As stated earlier in this paper, we do not intend to put forward a causal reductionism theory that presupposes that social (or individual) maladies are the result of a single cause. We recognise that gang violence in the Western Cape is a result of a multiplicity of factors. It includes the colonial legacy of segregation that gave rise (whether wittingly or unwittingly) to many dysfunctional and disorganised families and social networks, all found to have fostered youth restiveness and gang violence (Altshuler 1970). Although we put forward a conditional cash transfer approach to stemming gang violence in the Western Cape, we recognise that the problem runs deeper than what a few hundreds or thousands of Rands can resolve. 

Programme implementation

We argue that in conditions of pervasive open conflicts, such as gang-related conflicts, negative peace (referring to the absence of direct violence) could be an excellent first start and an essential foundation for building lasting and sustainable positive peace. In this section, we put forward the following action steps towards implementing a CCT that could be unique to the Western Cape’s socio-political milieu, and could provide community members with a sense of ‘ownership’ of the process. 

Proposed communities

We propose a municipal-level implementation of CCT that would target youths in selected communities within the Western Cape. For the proposed intervention, we recommend a CCT programme that will focus on three selected communities within the Cape Flats. As the most affected areas in the recent upsurge in the number of deaths resulting from gang-related violence, we propose the communities of Manenberg, Hanover Park and Mitchells Plain. In Manenberg, for instance, teachers at 14 schools banded together in 2013, declaring the situation too dangerous for students and teachers to come to school any more, and demanded that the Department of Education take severe and meaningful action to ensure the safety of learners and educators. They formed the Teachers Steering Committee and their refusal to teach forced the Department to close all 14 schools (Hanson 2013). A similar situation played out in Hanover Park and Mitchells Plain. These three communities have indeed gone through traumatic levels of gang-related violence in the last few years.

We also wish to emphasise, however, that the actual choice of communities should be linked to the programme objectives and design, availability of data, budgets, resources and capacity of the implementing organisation and its governmental and non-governmental partners. Identified and selected stakeholders, government structures, external organisations or a combination of all of them should be involved in establishing the criteria, selection and identification of potential recipient communities. 

Eligibility in terms of age 

We are mindful of the fluidity of the term ‘youth’, and the variability of the ages at which people join gangs. Olaiya (2014) makes a distinction between ‘modern-civic’ and ‘traditional-primordial’ notions of youth and avers that it often gives rise to the social and cultural tensions that characterise many African nations. According to Olaiya (2014:11), Africa’s adverse economic conditions mean that a sizeable proportion of its youth population is unable to meet socially ascribed responsibilities even when they have become adults, as identified by their chronological age (e.g. 40 years and above). Thus, the youth phase on the continent has become extended due to the harsh and lingering socio-economic conditions in many countries.

For this study, we recommend young men and women between the ages of 10-30 as eligible for the proposed CCT. It should be emphasised, however, that joining the scheme should be voluntary. 

Negotiating conditions

We recommend the following conditions for the proposed CCT in the selected communities. 

Recipients must commit to a 90-95% school attendance rate. This can be verified by including teachers and educators as part of the implementation team. 

Recipients who are out of school must commit to at least 10 hours of attendance to designated skills acquisition centres. Recipients in school can or should also be part of the skills acquisition programme. These centres should provide training for skills such as tailoring, plumbing, catering and hairdressing. The goal is to give the recipients the needed skills to either get jobs or start small businesses. The end goal is to reduce poverty and the predisposition to join gangs or be involved in gang-related vices.

Recipients must commit to a period of mentorship in business and life skills. Mentors should be embedded within the skills acquisition scheme. 

Owners of guns and other dangerous weapons, especially gang members, must commit to submitting their firearms and other weapons in a ‘mini’ Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) of gang members. An exhaustive DDR process that involves taking gang members out of their groups and helping them to reintegrate as ‘normal’ members of their communities is not the focus of our study. Still, we hope that our proposed intervention would inspire future research or intervention in that direction. One of the conditions for recipients of cash transfer in the Niger Delta Amnesty programme was for them to submit weapons. 

Regarding all the conditions decided upon, it is important to add that recipient communities should understand how the conditions were arrived at. 

Payment and evaluation 

We recommend a payment system that is negotiated for, and collectively arrived at by all stakeholders involved. Most CCT programmes transfer the money to the mother of the household, or the student in some circumstances. We recommend direct payment to beneficiaries who meet the agreed conditions. As stated earlier, the requirements to be attached to the proposed cash transfer must result from a series of negotiations between identified and selected stakeholders, and the government. 

A specific payment modality that may be recommended, is that of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Programme (Acosta et al. 2019), an extensive social protection and human development programme in the Philippines that is reputed to be well-managed and efficiently run. Under the plan, beneficiary households receive health and education grants, subject to compliance with respective programme conditions (Acosta et al. 2019). Payment is made directly to beneficiaries through bank cards or cash collections at strategic locations. 

In the first few years of the Pilipino programme, challenges were understandably related to the necessary implementation process, and pay-out to beneficiaries used to be delayed and irregular. Many recipients experienced difficulties with receiving transfers due to common problems, such as delays in issuing cash cards, irregularities and suspension of pay-outs and travelling costs and transaction fees at ATMs or pay-out locations. These problems may likely arise with our proposed intervention, so we recommend that all stakeholders take into cognisance and tackle them before they occur. 

We recommend that payment modalities be reached collectively between key stakeholders, relevant financial institutions and government, in a way that would provide a system that is unique to South Africa, with limited technical problems. 

Exploring alternatives

As mentioned earlier, we are putting forward a proposal that can be amended or adjusted to reflect economic and socio-cultural realities on the ground. There are alternatives, however, that may be more cost-effective. An example is a remarkable approach adopted by Cure Violence ‒ a globally-recognised programme that takes a public health approach to reduce violence. Founded in 1995 by Gary Slutkin, a former head of the World Health Organisation’s Intervention Development Unit, the organisation adopts a unique model of disease-control and behaviour-change methods to reduce the spread of violence in communities around the world. By detecting and interrupting conflicts, identifying and treating the highest risk individuals and changing social norms, the approach has proven very effective for reducing street and youth violence. It has also been applied to tackle issues such as cartel wars, tribal conflicts, school violence and ideologically inspired violence. Cure Violence is using the methods and strategies associated with disease control:

  • Detecting and interrupting conflicts
  • Identifying and treating the highest risk individuals
  • Changing social norms

We do not intend to go into details of Cure Violence’s methods and implementation. Our goal is to highlight the fact that if we are intentional in our quest for peaceful communities, we will always find ready alternatives. 


In this article, we have focused on gang violence in the Cape Flats and proposed a CCT project in a few specific communities. These communities are not representative of other gang-pervaded communities in South Africa, but what we envisage, is that an evaluation of the success or otherwise of an intervention in the Cape Flats communities could act as a template for possible interventions across other communities in the country.

We have attempted to provide empirical evidence to show that social protection initiatives are critical to the overarching goal of moving as many people as possible away from poverty. Evidence also suggests they can reduce forms of violence, including domestic and Intimate Partner Violence. Although our study does not provide case study evidence of CCTs’ role in reducing gang violence, we nonetheless base our recommendations on the successes of similar schemes for reducing violence in situations where feelings of relative deprivation are severe. 

The authors also show that similar studies which suggest that CCTs should be combined with other programmes to improve the quality of the supply of health and education services, and should provide additional supporting services. That explains why we recommend the creation of more skills acquisition centres and mentorship programmes in the selected communities, so that we can achieve a broader programme through conditions that focus on outcomes rather than on the collection of money, or the use of services alone.

Hughes (2018:133) affirms that the further individuals get from subsistence, the easier is it to ask questions like: what do I want, and how do I get it? Hughes argues that a guaranteed income, whether conditional or not, would acknowledge and empower the agency that exists inside every human being ‒ the ability to create his or her future. Ultimately, our goal in this study is to encourage discourse on the composite restoration of human dignity as put forward by Martin Luther King, who remarked that:

The dignity of the individual will flourish when the decisions concerning his life are in his own hands; when he has the assurance that his income is stable and certain, and when he knows he has the means to seek self-improvement (Cited in Milner 2019).


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Blessing Makwambeni
Senior Lecturer in the Journalism and Media Studies Department, Cape Peninsula University of Technology