His children died in gang war. Now he risks his life for peace


Parents aren’t supposed to bury their children. Ronald Desmond Snippert had to. Twice. One son was a gangster. Another was shot dead in front of Snippert’s wife. No one gets past that. But Snippert hasn’t collapsed, hasn’t succumbed to rage, anguish or despair. He gets up every morning and risks his life to fight for peace in Cape Town’s gang wars.

Every day, he walks a circuit through Manenberg, one of the most dangerous areas in the Cape Flats. One by one, he visits warring factions. He starts with the Clever Kids. Then the Dixie Boys. Later it’s the Hard Livings, the American Gang and the Jester Kids. By the end of the day, the old man with thinning grey hair has covered seven to ten kilometres on foot – and advocated for peace with men whose language is violence. He never stops. After shootings, Snippert is a lone figure on Manenberg’s streets, walking the line of fire in search of common ground.

“If I can change one life I think I have succeeded,” he says. He has given everything he has, risking his life every day, because he believes in the youth of Manenberg – that no child is born a gangster. Through commitment and compassion, he is showing a way to a more peaceful future.