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Cape Town - The ANC in the Western Cape has vowed to bring criminal charges against Western Cape Premier Helen Zille and Education MEC Donald Grant should a pupil in Manenberg be injured or killed as a result of gang fighting in the area.
But Grant’s spokeswoman, Bronagh Casey, has hit back, saying that the ANC-controlled national government would be held liable for such a death or injury because the police, whose job it is to ensure public safety, falls under national government.
There has been an upsurge in Manenberg gang violence in recent weeks. Since last week there have been a number of attempted murders and gun battles between the rival Americans and Hard Livings gangs. Some of these gun battles have happened near schools, in one instance spilling over on to the campus of Red River Primary, when pupils were in class.
On Wednesday, metro police arrested a 13-year-old boy for carrying a firearm and ammunition. On Thursday morning, Abduragmaan April, 32, was shot and killed near Edendale Primary School.
Last week, staff from Edendale, Red River, Silverstream Secondary, Sonderend Primary and Rio Grande Primary approached the Western Cape High Court with their safety concerns. The court handed down an interim order to compel the provincial Department of Education to station armed security guards at the schools.
But the order was rescinded this week, after a challenge by the department’s lawyers. Currently, metro police and SAPS have committed themselves to patrolling near the five affected schools as part of a two-week plan.
The five principals, including Rio Grande’s Brenda Manuel, have welcomed the increase of visible policing. But she said they were a poor substitute for permanent guards.
During a press conference at the ANC’s headquarters in Thibault Square on Thursday, the party’s leader in the province, Marius Fransman, said Grant’s decision to challenge the interim court order was “reckless” and a waste of taxpayers’ money. He also questioned where a R5 million investment in school safety, pledged last year by Zille, had gone.
Because of these perceived failures, Fransman concluded that Zille and Grant would be criminally liable were there to be a death or injury at one of the schools due to gang violence or stray bullets.
Casey responded, saying that the money had been spent on deploying metro police officers to the schools between September and December last year. With reference to Grant’s challenge of the court order, she explained: “(The department) does not have the resources to protect learners in this regard. This responsibility falls under various law enforcement agencies.”
Meanwhile, staff at Rio Grande have welcomed the installation of a “bullet reflective” fence which was installed at one of the school’s most vulnerable boundaries on Thursday.
As workmen, contracted by the department, sank poles for the new fence, teacher Kader Barendse showed the Cape Argus a number of spots where stray bullets had hit the school. There were holes in walls, in one classroom’s gate and in another’s blackboard.
“This is a real, physical threat to the safety of our teachers and pupils,” he said.
“The bulletproof fence will ensure an improvement in the level of safety we can provide for the kids and staff.”
The fences are due to be erected at other schools in the area as well.
Casey, however, said that “no amount of fencing” could reduce the levels of gang activity in the community.
“All agencies must continue to work together to reduce these levels.
“The department will continue to do whatever we can within the schools themselves,” she added.