NEWS & ANALYSIS

Bring in specialised gang units to protect communities - Debbie Schäfer

WCape MEC says gang violence has a direct impact on schools, and teachers and learners

Media Release: Bring in the specialised gang units and the army in to protect our communities now   

31 July 2018

Recently there has been a flare up of gang violence in communities within Cape Town as a result of ongoing gang warfare.  This has had a direct impact on our schools, our teachers and learners.  

The safety of our learners and educators is paramount and we ask that all schools take the necessary precautions in order to prepare for any emergency. 

WCED officials have therefore issued a circular to all schools to request schools to review their safety plans, specifically with regards to effective access control measures and their contingency plans in emergency situations. 

Every school must have a safety committee responsible for implementing a safety plan that meets the needs of the particular school.  Schools need to ensure that these committees are well-functioning and that staff members are aware of their relevant responsibilities should any emergencies arise.

We remind schools to ensure that all the necessary evacuation procedures and responsibilities are put in place, and that evacuation drills are rehearsed on a regular basis.

No safety plan can however compensate for the lack of police presence that is placing our schools in grave danger.

Last week in Scottsdene, shots rang out continuously around our schools. One police van arrived with one police officer who was unable to enter the area until back up arrived, which it never did. How are the police supposed to prevent, combat and investigate crime as they are constitutionally mandated to do, when they are so severely under-resourced?

While we are doing as much as we can as an education department to try and protect our schools, we simply do not have the legislative mandate or operational control over SAPS; the security manpower; or the requisite budget to contend with severe flare-ups in gang violence.

Gang violence is depriving our children of their educational opportunities. Without proper education many of these children themselves then become involved in gang activities and continue on this destructive cycle of violence and disruption. 

The only solution to this ongoing gang violence that is negatively impacting the education and safety of our learners would be to increase the SAPS presence on the ground, and especially around our schools; bring back the specialised gang units, and deploy the army to gang-ridden areas on a temporary basis to stabilise the areas.  

The reality is that without more police presence, gang violence cannot be brought under control. The NATIONALLY controlled South African Police service - according to the Constitution - is responsible for preventing, combating and investigating crime, maintaining public order, protecting and securing the inhabitants of the Republic and their property, and upholding and enforcing the law.

We support the Premier’s calls for the national Minister of Police to request the deployment of the army. This is necessary to support SAPS operations, as an interim peace-keeping measure in gang ridden areas. 

The result of the chronic under-resourcing of the SAPS in the Western Cape – both in terms of numbers as well as members with the requisite experience - is that criminals, and gangs in particular, are literally running riot holding our children and communities hostage.

Due to severe under resourcing, the SAPS officers that we do have, are putting their own lives at risk every day. Without enough support and back up they become targets themselves. 

We salute and thank those officers in the Western Cape who are doing their utmost under very difficult circumstances. 

Issued by Jessica Shelver, Spokesperson for Minister Debbie Schafer, Ministry for Education, Western Cape Government, 31 July 2018