Military needed to fight Cape Flats gangs
Written by Yazeed Kamaldien
Premier Helen Zille wants national police minister Nathi Mthethwa’s help to stop the Cape’s gang violence after 14 schools in Manenberg yesterday shut down because of safety fears.
Zille said gang violence in Manenberg, on the Cape Flats, has already left at least 50 persons dead or wounded over the last few weeks.
“I have been informed (the area’s gang violence) may be connected with the recent release of a senior gang leader from prison,” said Zille.
It was not the first time that Zille appealed to Mthethwa for help. She yesterday wrote him an open letter requesting an “urgent meeting on gang violence in the province and the employment of the South African National Defence Force in gang hotspot areas”.
“We are not requesting a permanent deployment… we urgently need a peace-keeping force to free the police up for their urgent duty of collecting evidence, effecting arrests, and ensuring convictions in court,” said Zille.
“The police needs help to restore order in these areas and the presence of the army would give the police the space to conduct investigations and ensure gang members responsible for this violence are brought to justice.”
Zille added: “Principals at Manenberg schools say that absenteeism has increased dramatically due to ongoing gang violence in the area. Teachers at Sonderend Primary School have reported that only about 200 of 900 learners attended school last week.
“Today I have received reports that teachers from all schools in Manenberg have indicated that they will not be teaching but instead will be reporting to the department of education’s metro office on a daily basis due to concerns for their safety.”
She said the province “cannot have a situation where gang violence is preventing our children and teachers from attending school. Matric examinations will also start in two months. It is critical that this crisis be addressed urgently.”
Western Cape education MEC Grant Donald confirmed yesterday that 14 schools had been temporarily closed in Manenberg. This closure was as a “result of threat to educator and learner safety”.
“Since the outbreak of gang violence in Manenberg, the education department has directed a great deal of resources and support to the area. It is doing all it can to protect learners and educators in school but it is unfortunately unable to ensure peace and safety within the community,” said Grant.
“The management and control of the underlying problems of gangsterism and violence in the Manenberg area go well beyond the capacity of an education department to correct.
“Our officials and educators are not law enforcers. Law enforcement is the responsibility of the police.”
Grant said the “safety of our learners and educators has continued to be threatened in Manenberg. Some of our educators have reported to metro central district office for duty instead of their schools.”
“The department has decided, following a discussion with the educators, to close the schools in Manenberg for the next two days as a result of the threat to their safety.”
He said the department would meet with schools today (THURSDAY) to discuss safety issues.
The education department’s spokesperson Bronagh Casey said the “police has been giving our schools support. Despite this our educators still feel unsafe”.