anti-crime drive

Thousands of young people in South Africa are languishing in prisons.

Thousands of young people in South Africa are languishing in prisons.

Most of them have been convicted on charges ranging from petty theft to gang rape, hijacking and murder. Some of them took drugs, knives and guns to school, while others are ruthless highjackers, heist gang members or crime syndicate members.

Due to various obstacles, including overcrowding, correctional services are not been able to reach these and other prisoners for interventions such as counselling and rehabilitation, and have therefore not been able to make a positive impact on them.

Yet it is possible to help the youth, especially the impressionable, malleable and starry-eyed ones, from following the same route by contributing towards changing or redirecting their minds.

Many groups and organisations, most of them operating in the non-government and non-profit arena, are doing their bit to change and or shift the youths' perceptions about crime as a glamorous way of life by shouting out phrases like "crime does not pay".

One of these initiatives is Dramatists Against Crime, which launched the Stop Crime Drama Festival.

The festival encourages young people to produce their own plays with strong anti-crime themes, featuring other young authors, directors, actors, stage managers and even those setting up the props and plotting lights and positions on stage.

The festival started as a Gauteng-based youth development project 11 years ago. Later, it started touring South Africa, but unfortunately it failed to take off as an effective anti-crime tool due to limited funding.

But things seem to be looking up. Last year, Sowetan adopted the festival as part of the youth development activities of the Aggrey Klaaste Nation Building Foundation.

This year, the North West department of arts and culture is hosting the 11th yearly edition of the festival, together with new organising and sponsoring partners, Sowetan for the Aggrey Klaaste Nation Building Foundation and Absa Bank for the Absa Foundation).

The National Arts Council and the Department of Arts and Culture have also been supporting the anti-crime initiative youth festival over the years.