Inside the Khayelitsha SAPS charge office. File picture: Obed Zilwa

Cape Town - The dangers facing pupils at schools in Khayelitsha were brought to the attention of the Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry in Cape Town on Tuesday.

Chris Hani high school principal Madoda Mahlutshana told commissioners Kate O'Regan and Vusi Pikoli about the amount of dangerous weapons he had to confiscate from pupils.

“The elements of criminality at the school manifest themselves around the issues of gangsterism amongst the learners, issues of vandalism and burglary at school, issues of drug usage. Those are some of the factors I normally experience as a school principal,” Mahlutshana said.

While he tried to work with parents, residents and the police, the situation remained unchanged.

The number of weapons confiscated from pupils was disturbing.

“Your knives, your pangas, any dangerous weapon that you can think of... some would say it's a form of protection,” Mahlutshana said.

“I would want to say we've got a mini-museum at our school... where we store all these knives.”

Often pupils caught with these items were summoned to the principal's office along with their parents before the matter was brought before the School Governing Body (SGB) for disciplinary action.

Pupils carried weapons because of ongoing fights between gangs outside school grounds.

Drug use, especially by pupils dependent on dagga and tik, was rife.

“We have had a case of a learner who brought in and sold ganja muffins.

“This boy was a Grade 11 learner and he was saying he was sent in by the parents because they don't have money. And he would use the ganja muffins as a source of income, which we found very odd and it was quite disturbing,” Mahlutshana said.

Asked whether the muffins were on display in the “mini-museum”, Mahlutshana laughed and said they had been destroyed, and that he would not have tasted them as he had seen the effects on pupils who sampled the confectionery.

The pupil was later suspended by the SGB.

While the school had a good working relationship with police and the community policing forum, this had not put his mind at ease.

The response from police, especially to burglaries and vandalism, had been poor.

“The experience is almost a very disappointing one that in all the break-ins, about six or seven, in the last four years, there has been no single person that has been convicted.”

Despite his frustrations, Mahlutshana said he did not believe that vigilantism was the answer to the problem, but a more effective and responsive police.

The commission began its sittings last week.

Premier Helen Zille established the commission after complaints from community organisations that police inefficiency was leading to increased vigilantism, which had already claimed many lives in the area.

The establishment of the commission was delayed after opposition from Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, who lost a Constitutional Court bid to have the inquiry halted last year.