1 policeman to 521 residents in Khayelitsha
Nine Khayelitsha schools were shut down yesterday by illegal protest action - co-ordinated by SANCO and COSAS in the main. This affected almost 9 000 learners.
While I fully support calls for safer schools, I condemn in the strongest possible terms protest action during school hours, especially illegal protest action. I also condemn the politically-driven attempts by ANC -affiliated organisations to deflect from the ANC-run national government's mandate over policing, and ensuring safer communities. These groups are supported in this dubious politicking by their partners Independent Media, who consistently misrepresent these issues to their readers, and fail to provide the correct context even when this detail is supplied to them by my department.
While over 95% of our teachers were present at school yesterday, feedback from some schools is that Principals and teachers felt threatened and feared for what would happen if SANCO found them on school premises. This is absolutely unacceptable and I condemn the intimidation of our teachers by learners or organisations in the strongest terms.
School safety is a legitimate concern that I share very deeply, as do all my colleagues in the Western Cape Government. Within our constitutional mandate - which excludes policing - we are doing everything we can to improve security measures at schools and to engage SAPS on general safety in high-crime communities.
Schools have safety committees and safety plans, and have employed security (not armed security) where possible. I will again write to the District Director for the Metro East region and request that schools increase the number of search and seizure operations that they conduct with the police service. These must be organised by the schools with SAPS.
We are also installing CCTV cameras to try and curb the break in's but these cameras are valuable and criminals actually land up targeting schools to steal these cameras. Cameras can be an effective safety mechanism but their effectiveness is not guaranteed, as the quality of the footage is not always satisfactory, and criminals use methods to cover their faces. We have CCTV footage of the people who stole 20 computers from Luleka Primary in Khayelitsha on 23 May 2018, yet it has not proven effective as criminals use methods to hide their faces, yet no arrests have been made.
So, 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, security expertise or budget to guarantee learner safety from armed criminals that are preying on our schools.
The best solution that will assist us in stopping these criminals from preying on our schools, teachers and learners is an increased police presence, effective criminal intelligence, arrests and convictions.
Yet the Khayelitsha police to population ratio is 1 to 521. This is shocking and as a result, our schools, teachers and learners are left to fend for themselves due to the ANC led National Government's failure to adequately resource our police stations. Recent reports have highlighted that the police to population ratio in the City of Cape Town has increased from 1:439 in 2016 to 1:560 in 2018. We regard this as a gross dereliction of duty on the part of the national government. The Public Service Commission has also expressed concerns, and has given SAPS 6 months to fill critical positions in SAPS in the Western Cape.
Section 205 of the Constitution sets out the responsibilities of the National Police Service. Subsection (1) provides that SAPS must be structured to function in the national, provincial and, where appropriate, local spheres of government. Subsection (3) sets out the objects of the SAPS - to prevent, combat and investigate crime, to maintain public order, to protect and secure the inhabitants of the Republic and their property, and to uphold and enforce the law.
At a provincial level, the education department has no legislative authority, budget or security manpower. The Provincial Department of Community Safety has an oversight role over the nationally controlled SAPS in the province, but absolutely no control over the staffing and operations of the police.
So again, while I support calls for safer schools, the National Assembly should be the marching point so that the NATIONAL Minister of Police Bheki Cele and the NATIONALLY controlled South African Police Service can increase police presence in the Western Cape as a whole, and especially areas like Khayelitsha and the gang-ridden Cape Flats, and make our communities safer as they are constitutionally mandated to do.
In fact, the Premier, Minister Plato and myself would join in such a march, as we too want safer communities and safer schools in our province.
The keys areas we need assistance with are:
- We need fully-resourced police stations both in terms of staffing as well as equipment and vehicles
- We need the National Police Minister to bring back the gang units as was promised two years ago
- We need the national government to take our safety and their constitutional mandate seriously. And we are looking into ways to make them do so, because they clearly do not have the ability or will to do so
- We need an improved and effective criminal justice system, including crime intelligence
- We need to bring in the army to assist the police when gang violence flares up to uncontrollable levels
The National Government is failing the people of the Western Cape. They evidently do not care about the safety of the people in this province. This abject failure of national government to adequately resource the SAPS in the Western Cape is either a deliberate strategy to destabilise the Western Cape, or gross negligence. Either way - it is not acceptable.
We cannot allow the ANC led National Government to continue to hold our communities and schools to ransom.
I stand with the learners, teachers, schools and communities in their fight for safer schools. As the Education MEC, I will continue to persist in doing everything within my power to work together with all spheres of Government on improving the safety of our learners and educators in this Province.