In this article, I argue that the security and development nexus takes on specific forms depending on the context, and that in Cape Town’s coloured townships it is embodied in policies and practices around what has come to be known as the ‘war on gangs’. Furthermore, the war on gangs in Cape Town bears resemblances to counterinsurgency strategies — not least in the sense that both are responses to a similar problem of governance. This comparison allows us explore how citizenship is being reconfigured for residents of the townships in ways that resemble what James Holston (2007) calls ‘differentiated citizenship’. Such differentiated citizenship is opposed to the universal inclusivity promised by post-apartheid South Africa. By exploring the specific merging of security and development in the Capetonian war on gangs as compared to counterinsurgency and the subsequent reconfiguration of citizenship, I am able to address a central question: How — and with what consequences — does power maintain itself when faced with an onslaught from those that it restricts to the margins of institutions and social life?