The systematic division that took place in South Africa during apartheid has left a lasting impression on the entire nation. It is a country with complex caste relations that go back years and even centuries. The rise of gangs in South Africa can be traced back to the Group Areas Act of 1950
, which displaced black people from their homes and banished them to assigned territories. Forced into overcrowded areas, the population was driven to fight and eventually split into hordes. Membership is growing in South Africa; In 2013, police estimated that there were 100,000 gang members in the Western Cape province.
This list explores some of the country’s more notorious gangs. South African gangs have carved out niches in a nation that continues to struggle with its gruesome legacy. For marginalized groups, this life of crime is often one of the few options available.
- Numbers Gang The most notorious criminal organization in South Africa is the Numbers Gang. It was founded in the late 1800s, when two men fought against the inhumane conditions in the mines where they worked.
- Today, the organization is particularly widespread in the South African prison system, where The Numbers gang is divided into three levels: 26, 27 and 28. The lowest rung, the 26s, specialize in robbery and smuggling goods into prisons, while the 27 is the blood element – their To join, you have to kill the guard or warden. 28 , at the top of the line, are violent sex offenders
- who must attack another male inmate in order to join. According to some sources, being part of the Numbers gang is almost mandatory if one wishes to successfully navigate and survive the South African prison system.
Gangs rose to prominence in South Africa as a result of the Group Areas Act, which evicted “non-white” South Africans from their homes and resettled them in rural and underdeveloped areas away from urban and economic centers. This led to increased poverty and unemployment among black and colored communities, particularly in the Cape Province (modern Western Cape, Northern Cape and Eastern Cape) where Coloreds were and still are the largest ethnic group.
This has led to severe unemployment, poverty and social marginalization. Cape Town’s former multi-ethnic suburbs, such as District Six, were either cleared of illegal residents or demolished.   
In 2013, 12% of the 2,580 murders in the Western Cape were gang-related, an increase of 86% from 2012. Children as young as 14 were arrested on charges of gang-related murder.
 In 2019, 900 people were killed in the first six months of the year in communities on the Cape Flats in the Western Cape;  By 2022 it was reported that Black Access gangs had become operational in Cape Town. 
Rest of South Africa 
In Johannesburg in the mid-1950s and early 1960s, many black African communities were relocated and resettled, in Soweto in the Meadowlands and in Dipkloof. Lanasia and Laudium became the hub of South Africa’s most notorious yet secretive mafia family known globally as the RFMO (Rasool Family Mafia Organisation).
Originally from the Petersburg (now Polokwane) sanctuary of the notorious SAMA (South African Mafia Association), founded by Ghulam Rase (South African Mafia Association). ) in the early 1900s. Western Soweto complained of serious crime and juvenile delinquency during the 1960s.
 The south of the city in Durban was largely controlled by gangs in Umlazi, Lemontville, the Durban CBD and Chatsworth. Section gangs were invented in the early 1900s and hostels were created as early as 1912 but they began to participate in crime in the mid-1900s.
After the Group Areas Act institutions such as Glebelands Hostel, Crimson League, Umlazi Sections and Amadando emerged. The oldest gang in South Africa dates back to the 1800s, located in the city of Durban.
In the early 1960s, gang violence increased, countered by increased policing and patrolling of non-white neighborhoods. 
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Apartheid led directly to the creation of Americans. The gang’s name refers to how members relate more to black Americans than black Africans, relegated to the fringes of society through forced segregation.
Members dress in red, white and blue and display tattoos on their arms that read “USA” or bear the image of Uncle Sam. The Americans are the largest gang in Cape Town, and have taken control of the meth trade, often to violent ends.
Once you join the Americans, you take a solemn, solemn oath: you are told that from that day forward you must be ready to die at any moment.
The Hard Livings
After the Americans, the Hard Livings are considered the second largest gang in Cape Town. The gang was founded in 1971 by twin brothers Rashid and Rashad Stagi in the Manenberg neighborhood, and as their criminal enterprise grew, tensions with their neighborhood rivals grew. Things came to a head in 1996 when Rashid Stagi was publicly set on fire by a vigilante group.
Although Stagi’s death affected the gang’s leadership, they remained active in the drug trade and were known to be allied with the Sicilian Mafia and the Chinese Triads, taking their criminal activity internationally.
The Sexy Boys
Based in Chestnut Place in the Belhar area of Cape Town, the Sexy Boys are best known for their drug dealing and ruthless racketeering (taxi drivers have to pay a “tax” to even drive through the neighborhood). Despite their more relaxed names, Sexy Boys have a reputation for brutality and murder.
Although the gang jailed most of its leadership in the early 2000s, it still thrives as an active criminal enterprise.
The firm was formed in the early 1990s as a who’s who of local gang members in Cape Town. By joining forces and concentrating their power, the organization quickly became a major player in underworld activities.
The firm is best known for operating Mandrex (a variant of Qualud popular in South Africa), as well as Shebeens, a speakeasy-style bar operating without a licence. The firm is also known for dabbling in more white-collar crimes like tax fraud, for which its founder Colin Stanfield was convicted and jailed.
One of Cape Town’s oldest gangs, the Mongrels are known for their drug running and shebeen operations. They don’t take kindly to rivals and are quick to pull the trigger on anyone who trespasses on their turf. Mongrails account for a large portion of the city’s gang-related homicides.
Mongrels begin training their soldiers at a young age, sometimes as young as 12. They are also the outfit that are not afraid to cut off the enemy’s face and give it to their mother.
The Junky Funky Kids
The Junky Funky Kids – also known as JFKs – are no joke. Centering their operations in the Lavender Hill neighborhood of Cape Town, JFK is a serious drug-running enterprise that frequently orders “shoot on sight” any rivals that enter their turf.
JFK is also known for his legendary brutal initiation process. New members must run through a gauntlet of two rows of existing gang members, all armed with clubs, leather belts and wooden planks. As new recruits pass through, they are beaten bloody by older members, proving their toughness and value to the gang.