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Cape Town - The office of the Northern Cape premier has hit back at Cape Town mayor Patricia De Lille after she called acting premier Grizelda Cjiekella to “come out of hiding” and stabilise the John Taolo Gaetsewe district, where violent protests have prevented children from going to school.
De Lille, speaking at a DA Women’s Network event in Kimberley on Saturday, said: “The collective failure of [acting] Premier Grizelda Cjiekella and her government to show leadership in ending the protests keeping 16 000 children out of school must end immediately.
“For the past three months, the premier’s office has watched this crisis grow so big that it now threatens to collapse the education system in the John Taole Gaetsewe district. It has been more than a week since the DA laid criminal charges against the leaders of the protests,” she said.
“We demand that those behind the organised intimidation of schoolchildren be arrested immediately. The premier must come out of hiding and send a public, unified call from the provincial government for a police presence in the district, large enough to stabilise this political violence.
“Three schools have already been burnt down and hundreds of learners relocated to an army camp and other secure locations. There can be no doubt that the vast majority of residents in that district want a peaceful, non-destructive resolution to service delivery problems.”
Spokesman for the Northern Cape premier’s office Monwabisi Nkompela said De Lille’s views were “ill-informed” and accused her of using the crisis to score “cheap political points”.
He insisted the provincial government was on top of the situation and said it had made arrangements for close to 400 matriculants to prepare for their exams at an army camp in the area.
“The premier has never been in hiding. She visited Olifansthoek when the protests started, before the ANC’s provincial conference [in June]. De Lille is not going to succeed in her attempts for political expediency. The provincial government has responded swiftly to try and address these issues.”
Nkompela said the demands of the protesters - for roads to be built and for the Gamagara mayor to resign - could not be addressed overnight. He said these would be addressed in the medium to long term and accused De Lille of being unaware of “what is happening in the province and on the ground” and rejected her “sentiments”.
De Lille said the premier’s task team was a “soft-handed” approach to the crisis.
“As a party of government at provincial level, we understand the complications of having the police force being run by the national sphere of government,” she said.
“However, where that police force is failing to ensure the constitutional right to safety and dignity for so many, then a provincial government must act decisively.
“A DA government in the Northern Cape would, under no circumstances, have allowed this situation to escalate to a level where so many children will now need to repeat an entire year of schooling. This not only affects them, but also the next cohort of learners entering the foundation phase next year, who will be confronted with packed classrooms and insufficient desks.
“Premier Cjiekella must act now by using her powers as the head of government to force the provincial police commissioner and Minister [of Police] Nathi Mthethwa to make the necessary arrests and stabilise the area,” she said.