Spes Bona High School in Athlone. Schools are being held hostage by gang violence.
With the continuous flare-up of violence in gang-plagued communities, Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schafer is calling for more visible policing and army deployment to protect pupils and staff.

In a press statement issued earlier this week, Schafer said the ongoing gang wars were having a direct impact on “our schools, our teachers and learners”.

“While we are doing as much as we can as an education department to try and protect our schools, we simply do not have the legislative mandate or operational control over SAPS, the security manpower, or the requisite budget to contend with severe flare-ups in gang violence.”

Last week, in Scottsdene, schools were held hostage as shots were fired in the area.

Schafer said gang violence was “depriving our children of their educational opportunities”. 

“Without the proper education, many of these children themselves then become involved in gang activities and continue on this destructive cycle of violence and disruption.”

She said the only way to solve the situation was to “increase the SAPS presence on the ground”, specifically around schools and to “bring back the specialised gang units, and deploy the army to gang-ridden areas on a temporary basis to stabilise the areas”.

Reneilwe Serero, Police Minister Bheki Cele’s spokesperson, said the SAPS was playing its part in the fight against gang violence and crime through Operation Thunder, which was launched by the minister in May.

“It is solely focused in the Western Cape in areas that are drug-infested and have a high rate of gangsterism. I must say that the operation has yielded positive results.”

She added that the minister believed that there was no need to deploy the army. “The work that the police are doing is enough,” she said.

Western Cape police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel André Traut said Operation Thunder had been launched in Mitchells Plain.

He said that 269 police officials comprising the Special Task Force, Tactical Response Teams, Public Order Police, detectives and crime intelligence operatives were part of Operation Thunder.

He said base camps had been set up at hot spots to allow for “effective and speedy responses to incidents of crime” in areas such as Worcester, Steenberg, Ravensmead, Philippi East, Mitchells Plain, Kraaifontein, Hermanus and Khayelitsha.

The SANDF spokesperson, Brigadier-General Mafi Mgobozi, said they understood the situation in communities plagued by gang violence and crime, but there were protocols in place and they did not deploy themselves.

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