Education department challenges court order

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Independent Newspapera

A policeman speaks to pupils at Edendale Primary School in Manenberg. Officers have been deployed to schools in the area because of a gang war between the Hard Livings and Americans. Picture: Cindy Waxa

Cape Town -

The Western Cape Department of Education wants the high court to set aside an order compelling it to deploy armed security guards at five Manenberg schools.

Court papers were lodged by the department’s lawyers two hours before the court’s deadline for the security guard deployment at close of business on Monday. A court decision is expected on Tuesday.

On Friday, the Manenberg teachers steering committee and representatives of five schools where the safety of pupils and staff have been compromised by gang fighting, brought an urgent application to the high court.

They argued the department was compelled to provide additional measures to ensure the safety and security of pupils and staff.

The five schools are Silverstream Secondary, Sonderend Primary, Edendale Primary, Red River Primary and Rio Grande Primary.

Eugene Peters, one of the applicants and principal at Red River Primary, told the Cape Argus on Monday of running gun battles between the Americans and the Hard Livings gangs, which on Thursday spilled over on to school grounds because of a lack of fencing.

A teacher was nearly hit by a stray bullet, he said, and the trauma of the incident led to all pupils staying away from school the following day.

On Monday, in spite of police presence at the school, gunshots were heard nearby. Peters reported absenteeism of around 50 percent on Monday.

On Friday, Judge Elizabeth Baartman issued an interim order ordering the department to “provide for the safety and security of educators, learners and staff” by “deploying armed, properly equipped, visible security personnel at the five schools”.

On Sunday, education department officials met Manenberg police, who agreed to a two-week plan of action which would see them increase their visibility at the five schools.

Yet police were not permanently stationed at the schools on Monday, opting for rolling patrols in and around school campuses.

“It is good to see the police here more often,” said Brenda Manuel, principal at Rio Grande Primary, on Monday, as pupils were going home.

“But this is not what the court order asked for. The department was ordered to provide permanent and armed security. This did not happen and we find that to be very disappointing.”

Departmental spokesman Bronagh Casey would not comment on the order on Monday, saying it was “being considered” by the department’s legal team.

She expressed the department’s confidence in and support for the police: “The police are optimistic that the (two-week) plan… will be successful in curbing the current spate of gang violence around the five high-risk schools identified by them. The department will fully support police the effect of (their efforts) will be evaluated on an ongoing basis.” - Cape Argus

daneel.knoetze@inl.co.za


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