Cape Town - The curbing of gang violence outside schools in Manenberg could be a template for a similar initiative in gang-torn Khayelitsha, the Western Cape government has proposed.
This came after Catherine Ward, a psychologist at the University of Cape Town, warned the Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry last week that young gangsters were causing a number of deaths in the area.
In May last year, the Cape Argus reported on two murders within a week of each other in which teenage boys were stabbed to death in group knife fights in the streets of Site 2.
On occasion, the fighting had spilt over into the grounds of Bulumko High School, disrupting classes. Principal Bernard Hlongwane admitted at the time that the violence had escalated dramatically since the end of 2012.
Last week, Ward told the Khayelitsha commission that combating gangs would require the combined efforts of the whole society.
Justice Kate O’Regan, who co-chairs the inquiry, suggested that a task team consisting of the police and local and provincial government be set up to deal with the matter.
In a co-ordinated response, drawing from the inputs of different government departments, Western Cape Education Department spokeswoman Bronagh Casey said similar collaborations between the government and police had taken place in the past, notably in Manenberg during a period of intense violence in the area earlier this year.
In addition to supporting the police in their work, Casey said that a number of measures were already in place to address violence among school pupils.
These included “youth safety programmes” run during school holidays, procedural manuals for teachers and schools to manage safety concerns, counselling and trauma support, and behavioural interventions to prevent children from drifting into gangs.
But Casey took police to task for failing to reinstate a specialised gang unit, which could have a “huge impact” on reducing gang violence.
“Clearly it is the lack of visible policing which creates the room for the gang violence to occur. The overwhelming majority of youth gang violence takes place outside a school’s premises, which falls under the authority of the police.
“The Western Cape government can provide as many programmes as our budget allows, but nothing has a stronger impact in reducing crime than effective visible policing. Rapid police response times, arrests and convictions are the strongest deterrents to crime.”
The City of Cape Town’s Richard Bosman, who heads safety and security, said the council would gladly assist the police in intervening in child gangs.
Police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Andrè Traut said the police would not comment on Justice O’Regan’s suggestion until it had studied the commission’s final findings and recommendations.