After almost a thousand murders in the first six months of this year on the Cape Flats, national authorities sent in the army, and armoured convoys have patrolled the rutted streets of the worst neighbourhoods

• Photography by James Oatway

Marcelliano Reitz, lean and toothless, rolls up his sleeve. The sun is setting behind the world-famous silhouette of Table Mountain. A plane on its way to Cape Town’s international airport flies low overhead. Children play on a rusting climbing frame, jumping on an abandoned mattress.

Reitz has only just returned to his home in the poor and violent neighbourhood of Bonteheuwel after five years in jail for a firearms offence. He is a member of the Americans, one of the area’s biggest and most violent criminal gangs. On his wrist is the tattoo that marks him out as also being a member of one of South Africa’s major prison gangs. Yards away, police search a line of teenagers turned to a wall.

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