Did the coronavirus inspire an unprecedented gangland truce in South Africa? Have hardened gangsters really downed their guns and joined forces to deliver food parcels and help to the communities they have long terrorized?

These and other claims made international headlines in the wake of the country’s COVID-19 shutdown, joining a rash of media reports about gangs in Brazil imposing lockdowns in the favelas, supposedly to safeguard communities, and extortionists in Central America showing occasional leniency to those in their debt.

But the reality is often very different…

Cape Gangs in Lockdown