Sony Pixel Power calrec Sony

Prison Journalism: The Number Gang

22/02/2024

Prison Journalism: The Number GangDean Mashimbwe, a Zimbabwean migrant residing in Cape Town, was incarcerated at Pollsmoor Correctional Centre from 2016 until 2017.

by Dean Mashimbwe

22-02-2024 10:25

in Prison Journalism

Prisoner. Image by Pexels/RDNE Stock project

The Number Gang is a criminal organization predominantly found in South African jails. From the very first day you get arrested, as you enter the police station, you will realize that the world you are about to enter is now different. Upon arrest, you are subjected to searches and may even be robbed of your belongings if you are not a gang member. Non-gang members are referred to as Mbatha in Xhosa or Franse in Afrikaans. To ensure safety, one must belong to one of the gangs, which are categorized into three groups: 26, 27, and 28. For first timers in jail, survival is particularly challenging.

--

Gang Hierarchy and Personal Curiosity The Number Gang operates with a structured hierarchy, and leadership governs it. The more notorious you become, the higher your rank. During my incarceration in Pollsmoor, I was intrigued by the Number-not with the intention of joining, but to uncover its secrets.

Survival Strategies in Prison In prison, survival options are limited. You can either be a gang member or a non-gang member with privileges. For instance, non-gang members who receive visits and gifts from their families, such as sugar, milk, deodorant, or cigarettes, may find themselves liked by gang members who aim to benefit from these goods, resulting in your belongings being shared half for you, half for the gang members.

Joining the Gang Another survival strategy involves joining the gang, which demands dedication and perseverance. Membership is not easily granted; it comes with difficult initiation rites. Once in, there is no way out. Membership involves committing crimes even while in custody.

--

Earning Ranks and Respect To attain a high rank within the gang, one must be bold and willing to take risks. Members who exhibit fearlessness and boldness are given the title Gabadin. To earn this title, one must be recruited and learn specific codes of conduct.

The Prison System and Gang Culture Based on my experience, I conclude that the prison system itself inadvertently promotes gang culture. In Pollsmoor, each block has five cells, with one reserved for gang members. Rituals and recruitment activities occur in these designated spaces.

The Perpetuation of Gang Culture The culture of the Number Gang is perpetuated in South African prisons, passed down through generations. However, the gang system does offer some benefits to wardens since inmates can control each other, maintaining peace and discipline. Gang members also regulate the movement of illegal items within the prison in a well-organized manner, viewing each other as brothers. Any infraction requires an explanation, and punishment can be severe, ranging from beatings to stabbings.

--

Risks and Consequences Valuable items such as weed, cell phones, drugs, or cigarettes must be handled carefully. Non-gang members found with these items risk severe consequences, including death.

Adapting to Prison Life Some inmates enter jail with no intention of joining a gang, but long sentences and the prevailing jail culture often led them to eventually become part of the Number, as it dominates the activities within the prison.

DISCLAIMER: Submission published as received

Should you wish to assist in the rehabilitation of former inmates and help put money into the pockets of those who have struggled to earn a living during and after incarceration, click HERE

RESTORE is an NGO based in Cape Town, South Africa, providing inmates at Pollsmoor Prison with restorative justice opportunities.

If you have any questions you would like to ask our prison journalists, WhatsApp us on 060 011 0211.

Do you have contact with a prison inmate who would like to write for The South African website? If so, send an email to info@thesouthafrican.com or a WhatsApp to 060 011 0211.

You can also follow @TheSAnews on Twitter and The South African on Facebook to get the latest prison journalism articles.

Support Women in Journalism in 2024 - Support us to fund independent women journalism
LINK: https://www.thesouthafrican.com/culture/prison-journalism/prison-journ...
See more stories from thesouthafrican

Africa Stories

22/04/2024

WATCH: Queen of hip-hop Lil2Hood thanks Paris

WATCH: Queen of hip-hop Lil2Hood thanks ParisProducer and DJ Lil2Hood (Flash.Wrldwide) has proved that she's a queen of modern hip-hop. Lil2Hood thanked Par...

22/04/2024

Tonight on House of Zwide: Funani informs Isaac about Nkosi seeing his hijacker in Tembisa

Tonight on House of Zwide: Funani informs Isaac about Nkosi seeing his hijacker ...

22/04/2024

Tonight on Scandal: The carpet is pulled out from under Nhlamulo

Tonight on Scandal: The carpet is pulled out from under NhlamuloDon't miss Monday, 22 April's riveting episode of South African soapie Scandal! on e.tv ...

22/04/2024

LGBTQ+ writers asked to submit their stories

LGBTQ writers asked to submit their storiesWriters have been asked to submit their short stories (up to 20, 000 words) for an upcoming anthology called Just LG...

22/04/2024

[Watch] Queen of hip-hop Lil2Hood thanks Paris

[Watch] Queen of hip-hop Lil2Hood thanks ParisProducer and DJ Lil2Hood (Flash.Wrldwide) has proved that she's a queen of modern hip-hop. Lil2Hood thanked Pa...

22/04/2024

Isaac Mutant: HemelBesem gave me R2, 500'

Isaac Mutant: HemelBesem gave me R2, 500'Cape town rapper Isaac Mutant claims he was paid less than everyone else's fee for the use of his music in Sho...

22/04/2024

Afrikaans (free) television shows you can STILL watch

Afrikaans (free) television shows you can STILL watchAfrikaans television shows are making a comeback through AfriForumTV. However, not everyone wants to see sh...

22/04/2024

Tonight on Smoke and Mirrors: Virginia learns Sonto and Sakhile slept together

Tonight on Smoke and Mirrors: Virginia learns Sonto and Sakhile slept togetherDon't miss Monday, 22 April's riveting episode of South African soapie Smo...

22/04/2024

Tonight on Skeem Saam: Kgosi reveals the details of what he witnessed Lehasa doing

Tonight on Skeem Saam: Kgosi reveals the details of what he witnessed Lehasa doi...

21/04/2024

Gqeberha: The Empire' loses more viewers on DStv

Gqeberha: The Empire' loses more viewers on DStvTshedza Pictures' isiXhosa telenovela Gqeberha: The Empire' lost more viewers in March and was plac...

21/04/2024

Youngins' fans praise actor Thabiso Ramotshela as Mahlatse

Youngins' fans praise actor Thabiso Ramotshela as MahlatseSouth Africans praise former The River' actor Thabiso Ramotshela, who plays Mahlatse in Showm...

20/04/2024

Skeem Saam: Friday's episode, 19 April 2024 [video]

Skeem Saam: Friday's episode, 19 April 2024 [video]Missed an episode of Skeem Saam? No problem! Watch the latest episode of your favourite South African soa...

19/04/2024

Tonight on Smoke and Mirrors: Thandiswa panics when she learns of possible evidence in Mthetho's office

Tonight on Smoke and Mirrors: Thandiswa panics when she learns of possible evide...

19/04/2024

Tonight on Skeem Saam: Khwezi stares death in the face

Tonight on Skeem Saam: Khwezi stares death in the faceDon't miss Friday, 19 April's riveting episode of South African soapie Skeem Saam on SABC 1 on DSt...

19/04/2024

Tonight on House of Zwide: Faith refuses to talk to Zola and to discuss the matter with Zanele further

Tonight on House of Zwide: Faith refuses to talk to Zola and to discuss the matt...

19/04/2024

Skeem Saam: Thursday's episode, 18 April 2024 [video]

Skeem Saam: Thursday's episode, 18 April 2024 [video]Missed an episode of Skeem Saam? No problem! Watch the latest episode of your favourite South African s...

19/04/2024

Prison Journalism: Tragic story of Jerry's life and crimes

Prison Journalism: Tragic story of Jerry's life and crimesDavid van Nek was incarcerated in Pollsmoor Prison from 2013 until 2015 and participated in the re...

19/04/2024

House of Zwide' Spoiler: Soka dates Mampho and Ona

House of Zwide' Spoiler: Soka dates Mampho and OnaThe House of Zwide' May teasers reveal that Soka will date both Ona and Mampho and get caught. Will h...

19/04/2024

Beer: Seven celebrities talk about their love

Beer: Seven celebrities talk about their loveBeer is one of the world's most popular beverages. We asked several celebrities about their favourite brews or ...

19/04/2024

Tonight on Scandal: Tlhogi cannot believe what she hears from Taps

Tonight on Scandal: Tlhogi cannot believe what she hears from TapsDon't miss Friday, 19 April's riveting episode of South African soapie Scandal! on e.t...

18/04/2024

Tonight on Smoke and Mirrors: Caesar almost finds Thandiswa with the bloody wedding dress

Tonight on Smoke and Mirrors: Caesar almost finds Thandiswa with the bloody wedd...

18/04/2024

Taylor Swift's The Tortured Poets Department' set to drop on FRIDAY

Taylor Swift's The Tortured Poets Department' set to drop on FRIDAYTaylor Swift will release her highly anticipated record The Tortured Poets Departme...

18/04/2024

Tonight on Skeem Saam: Lehasa puts his plan to eliminate Khwezi in motion

Tonight on Skeem Saam: Lehasa puts his plan to eliminate Khwezi in motionDon't miss Thursday, 18 April's riveting episode of South African soapie Skeem ...

18/04/2024

Prison Journalism: April's experiences of black boudoir

Prison Journalism: April's experiences of black boudoirThabo Mthembu was incarcerated in Pollsmoor Prison from 2014 to 2019. Read Thabo's story by Tha...

18/04/2024

Prison Journalism: Can gangsterism and violence be reduced in prison?

Prison Journalism: Can gangsterism and violence be reduced in prison?Dean Mashimbwe, a Zimbabwean migrant residing in Cape Town, was incarcerated at Pollsmoor C...

18/04/2024

Software-making music: How DJs are doing it

Software making music: How DJs are doing itSoftware plays a big part in music production, recording, and performances. Here's what DJs are using, and how yo...

18/04/2024

Tonight on House of Zwide: Zanele later blindsides an unwitting Faith into meeting with Zola

Tonight on House of Zwide: Zanele later blindsides an unwitting Faith into meeti...

18/04/2024

Debut author stuns with international bestselling thriller Anna O'

Debut author stuns with international bestselling thriller Anna O'Matthew Blake burst onto the book scene with his bestseller Anna O', a deliciously d...

18/04/2024

Skeem Saam: Wednesday's episode, 17 April 2024 [video]

Skeem Saam: Wednesday's episode, 17 April 2024 [video]Missed an episode of Skeem Saam? No problem! Watch the latest episode of your favourite South African ...

18/04/2024

Watch: Trailers for the best Afrikaans movies ever made

Watch: Trailers for the best Afrikaans movies ever madeDon't know what to watch? Here are some of the best Afrikaans movie trailers ever made, including Too...

17/04/2024

Isitha: The Enemy' is the second-watched TV show on e.tv

Isitha: The Enemy' is the second-watched TV show on e.tvE.tv's popular telenovela, Isitha: The Enemy' secured second place on the channel with over...

17/04/2024

Tonight on Scandal: Dintle reels in the line but it seems she's the only one dangling

Tonight on Scandal: Dintle reels in the line but it seems she's the only one...

17/04/2024

Trailer debate: What's the BEST South African movie?

Trailer debate: What's the BEST South African movie?The trailer debate is on! We'd like to spark the debate What's your favourite South African mov...

17/04/2024

Tonight on Skeem Saam: Lewatle and Pax are punished for their misdeeds

Tonight on Skeem Saam: Lewatle and Pax are punished for their misdeedsDon't miss Wednesday, 17 April's riveting episode of South African soapie Skeem Sa...

17/04/2024

Tonight on House of Zwide: Isaac tells Funani he has no leads on Nkosi's hijackers yet

Tonight on House of Zwide: Isaac tells Funani he has no leads on Nkosi's hij...

17/04/2024

Ster-Kinekor to cut 236 jobs, close THESE nine cinemas in South Africa

Ster-Kinekor to cut 236 jobs, close THESE nine cinemas in South AfricaSter-Kinekor has announced plans to lay off almost a third of its 728 employees and close ...

17/04/2024

Disney and National Geographic celebrate Earth Month

Disney and National Geographic celebrate Earth MonthDisney's storytelling prowess merged with National Geographic's legacy of exploration to celebrate E...

17/04/2024

Prison Journalism: How have you changed as a person while in prison?

Prison Journalism: How have you changed as a person while in prison?Jeffrey Shockley is a writer serving a life sentence in the State Correctional Institution-F...

17/04/2024

Tonight on Smoke and Mirrors: Thandiswa is determined to solve Dikeledi's sudden disappearance mystery

Tonight on Smoke and Mirrors: Thandiswa is determined to solve Dikeledi's su...

17/04/2024

Smoke and Mirrors: Tuesday's episode, 16 April 2024 [VIDEO]

Smoke and Mirrors: Tuesday's episode, 16 April 2024 [VIDEO]Stay up to date with the latest episodes of your favourite South African soapie on The South Afri...

17/04/2024

Skeem Saam: Tuesday's episode, 16 April 2024 [video]

Skeem Saam: Tuesday's episode, 16 April 2024 [video]Missed an episode of Skeem Saam? No problem! Watch the latest episode of your favourite South African so...

17/04/2024

Scandal!: Tuesday's episode, 16 April 2024 [video]

Scandal!: Tuesday's episode, 16 April 2024 [video]Stay up to date with the latest episodes of your favourite South African soapie on The South African websi...

17/04/2024

Sibongile and The Dlaminis' gains first position on DStv

Sibongile and The Dlaminis' gains first position on DStvRhythm World's popular telenovela Sibongile and The Dlaminis' is the most-watched TV show o...

17/04/2024

House of Zwide: Tuesday's episode, 16 April 2024 [VIDEO]

House of Zwide: Tuesday's episode, 16 April 2024 [VIDEO]Stay up to date with the latest episode of South African soapie House of Zwide on The South African ...

16/04/2024

Call for the 18th Annual South African Film and Television Awards Jury has been extended

The National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF), an agency of the Department of Sp...

16/04/2024

Tonight on House of Zwide: Zanele feels Sandile's not a true friend anyway if he's not happy with her

Tonight on House of Zwide: Zanele feels Sandile's not a true friend anyway i...

16/04/2024

Tonight on Skeem Saam: Evelyn learns about the full scale of her son's troubles

Tonight on Skeem Saam: Evelyn learns about the full scale of her son's troub...

16/04/2024

Tonight on Smoke and Mirrors: Caesar and Jaxon finally receive the moment they have longed for

Tonight on Smoke and Mirrors: Caesar and Jaxon finally receive the moment they h...

16/04/2024

Smoke and Mirrors: Monday's episode, 15 April 2024 [VIDEO]

Smoke and Mirrors: Monday's episode, 15 April 2024 [VIDEO]Stay up to date with the latest episodes of your favourite South African soapie on The South Afric...