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Cape Town - Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa is expected to meet Western Cape Premier Helen Zille next week to discuss gang violence in Manenberg and other hot-spots as well as her request to have the army deployed to these areas.
But Mthethwa’s spokesman Zweli Mnisi said it was unfortunate that Zille had communicated with him in an open letter about the issue on Wednesday.
Mnisi said Mthethwa’s office had received a letter from Zille on Monday and had immediately sent an acknowledgement of receipt.
“We are disappointed with the approach. We have never ignored this matter.” The ministry proposed that a meeting take place next Thursday.
Mnisi said the deployment of the army to gang hot-spots would only be a temporary solution. “We need to get to the root cause.”
A multifaceted approach was needed that would involve intergovernmental cooperation and residents’ support.
Mnisi said Mthethwa had met Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille last month to discuss gang violence in the city.
In the open letter Zille requested an urgent meeting to discuss the recent “spike” in gang violence in Cape Town.
She said Manenberg had been one of the hardest-hit areas. More than 50 people had been wounded or killed in gunfire over the past few weeks.
Sixteen schools in Manenberg had been temporarily closed after teachers reported for duty at a district office and not at their schools out of fear for their safety. It was reported on Thursday that 14 schools had closed and since then two more had decided to shut.
Zille said she had read in the media about discussions between Mthethwa and De Lille about the flare-up of gang violence in a number of areas and that he would be making an announcement on it in coming weeks.
De Lille had told her that Mthethwa had undertaken urgently to liaise with the Western Cape government on the matter.
After Mthethwa had not approached the provincial government, Zille had written to his office on Monday urgently requesting a meeting with him. When there had been no response by Wednesday she wrote the open letter.
Meanwhile, Manenberg police station commander Brigadier Andre van Dyk said it would be safer for children to be at school than at home. “They are a lot more vulnerable (at home). The chances they will get hit (by a bullet) are much bigger.”
Van Dyk said the violence needed to be brought under control and gangs had to be disarmed.
He added that the number of attempted murders “are significantly down” compared to last year.
A meeting between the police, metro police, the MECs for Education, Community Safety and Social Development, and teachers’ representatives was expected to be held on Thursday afternoon.
Bronagh Casey, spokeswoman for Education MEC Donald Grant, said the aim of the meeting was “to exchange information about the situation in Manenberg as it affects the schools”.
It would look at what government had already done, and possible new steps that could be taken to meet the safety concerns of the teachers.
She said that while there had been an increase in police presence in the area, teachers had reported that their safety and that of pupils had continued to be threatened.
“While we believe our learners are safer at school (when supervised), we cannot have children arrive at schools when they will be left unsupervised. This is a safety risk in itself. Parents are now informed and can make necessary supervision arrangements.”
Jonavon Rustin, provincial secretary of the SA Democratic Teachers Union, said that at a meeting on Wednesday teachers had acknowledged that schools could provide a haven for pupils. But gangsters also came on to school grounds to look for rival gangsters.