The farmer himself had his right leg amputated almost all the way to the hip. While I realised that asking him about his own amputation could be a sensitive issue, the number of dogs with no legs baffled me.
Luckily, without my prompting, he explained the reason. As part of a gang initiation in Cape Town, young boys have to break a strong, vicious pit bull’s limb with their bare hands and then cut it off while the dog is alive. The farm owner further explained that as soon as this vicious dog is without a limb, it is left to die, as neither the gang members nor its owner no longer want it.
The dogs are no longer useful, no longer vicious and are discarded like dirt. The farm owner belongs to a dog association and has access to these amputated and rejected dogs.
“Many of these dogs are put down because of the brutality and ruthlessness of how their limbs are broken. A number of the dogs don’t stand a chance, they don’t survive it and to end their misery they have to be put down. I give a second chance to the dogs that have made it, although the quality of their lives is greatly altered,” he said.
Obviously, the dogs struggled to get around. Although they looked well fed, there was something depressing about them. Digging deeper into the culture of gangsterism in South Africa, especially in the Western Cape province, paints a chilling and frightening picture.
According to research done by Adam Cooper from the University of Cape Town, initiation into these gangs often involves a violent act. “These initiation tasks involve demonstrating the ability to be both fearless and violent, as this form of manhood is symbolically attained through performing dangerous acts. Shooting a rival gang member is a common initiation task… Gang initiation is therefore based on the performance of symbolic violence in order to gain the respect of relevant others,” he says.
Gangsterism is an indication of serious underlying socio-economic ills. Researchers point out that young boys feel the need to belong, to define their masculinity and as a result join gangs, often with devastating physical and psychological effects on the gang members.
Due to the rise and severity of gang related crimes in the Western Cape, the provincial government last year committed to divert R6m from the education budget to the City of Cape Town to be used in efforts to curb gang-related violence.
The use of drugs and prostitution is rife in gang-infested areas. A suburb called Reiger Park in Johannesburg has been in the news for killings of children as part of gang related crimes. Just recently, Luke Tibbetts, aged 3, died after suffering a head wound in an apparent gang shooting.
I looked at the dogs with their missing limbs missing – a stark reminder of the alarming culture and barbarism of gangsterism. The dogs, like many others caught in the crossfire of this misguided culture, will never know why their limbs were so violently and pitilessly detached from their bodies.Post published in: Africa News