People Against Gangsterism and Drugs

PAGAD have been determined to reconstruct their communities on the Cape Flats by eliminating drugs and related crimes. Their vigilante campaigns have drawn criticism from many quarters, but they have remained intact and have developed to what is considered a terrorist organisation. Pictures: www.pagad.co.za

People Against Gangsterism and Drugs (PAGAD) came into being in 1996 when communities on the Cape Flats, Cape Town decided to form an anti-crime organisation. The aim was to fight the drugs and violence plaguing their area. PAGAD began as a multi-religious organisation, but because its dominant membership was of Muslim people, it became an Islamic front. Later, PAGAD developed anti-government and Western sentiments, as the organisation believes that the South African government poses a threat to Islamic values. It also aims to create better political representation for South African Muslims.

Due to its controversial vigilante tactics, the organisation has several front names like Muslims Against Global Oppression (MAGO) and Muslims Against Illegitimate Leaders (MAIL) under which it launches anti-Western campaigns. PAGAD's military wing is called G-Force, for Gun Force, and functions as small groups or cells. It is believed that G-Force has been responsible for acts of sabotage and violence akin to terrorism.

PAGAD has been implicated in episodes of urban terrorism in Cape Town since 1998, especially 9 different explosions in 2000. The groups attacks synagogues, gay nightclubs, moderate Muslims, tourist attractions and restaurants with Western associations, like the Planet Hollywood bombing in Cape Town on 25 August 1998. PAGAD denied any involvement in the event after subsequent raids on several members' homes within 20 minutes of the explosion.

PAGAD members generally appear in masks to protect themselves from reprisal attacks. Picture: www.bhdani.com

The organisation first came into the spotlight in 1996 when members shot and set alight Rashad Staggie, a notorious Cape Flats drug dealer. PAGAD felt that the police were not doing enough to stop drug related crimes in their communities and decided to take matters into their own hands.

Shots were fired at a group of Muslim men who converged on the Staggie residence and some of the vigilantes were wounded. Staggie tried to escape by car, but was prevented from doing so. He was shot and someone threw a firebomb at him and he burst into flames. Police officers doused the fire, but several masked men fired further shots and finally killed Staggie in a widely televised drama. Benny Gool, a photographer at the scene, captured the killing on film and had to go into hiding for fear of attacks from PAGAD. He was also not prepared to turn his footage over to the police. Rashied Staggie, the brother of the executed drug dealer, fled to a safer location, but swore revenge at his brother's funeral.

PAGAD aims to eradicate drugs, especially crack cocaine, on the Cape Flats. Picture: www.suntimes.co.za

It is estimated that PAGAD has several hundred members with G-Force probably consisting of less than 50 people. There are allegations that it has relationships with Middle Eastern fundamentalist groups, as well as with Osama bin Laden.

In 1998 the South African Police launched Operation Saladin, a campaign to curb the rampant vigilantism PAGAD was practicing. Two policemen laid charges of intimidation after they allegedly received death threats as a result of the operation.

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