Ministers Grant and Fritz Oversee South African Police Service's Search and Seizure at School
This morning Western Cape Education Minister Donald Grant and Community Safety Minister Albert Fritz visited Groenvlei Secondary in Landsdowne to oversee a search and seizure operation by South African Police Services (SAPS).
This follows two separate incidents last week, where five minors were arrested for possession of illegal firearms at two schools. The arrests were made following calls from principals at two of our provinces schools that they had heard that there was a firearm on the school premises.
"Thankfully, in both instances, no one was hurt, the firearms were found and the perpetrators arrested," said Grant.
"But the very fact that there were such weapons in our schools both concerns and angers me. These firearms pose a severe danger to our learners and it is simply unacceptable that these minors put the lives of their fellow young learners at risk. "
"No weapon, of any sort, should make it into our schools. It will simply not be tolerated."
Grant said that the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) has some measures in place to reduce the risk of weapons entering our schools. These include the use of hand-held metal detectors at 109 of our schools as well as search and seizure operations by SAPS at schools that are high risk.
"We have found that these measures have been yielding some positive results at some of our schools. Metal detectors are a case example if properly managed by our schools."
Grant said that the detectors have prevented many objects that could be used as weapons from entering our schools, such as screwdrivers, knives and scissors.
"If they had not been picked up by the detectors, these objects could have been used to cause bodily harm. Also through the search, our schools have been able to identify learners that are guilty of possession. This then allows us to address the behaviour of that learner, be it through disciplinary action or behavioural counselling and conflict management," he said.
"Where searches are frequent, some schools have reported that the number of weapons found has waned. Acting as a deterrent, learners then do not take the chance of bringing any dangerous objects into their school."
Grant said that the police search and seizures have yielded similar results, with various weapons being found during the raids, as well as acting as a future deterrent.
Because of the positive effects of these searches, the WCED will be increasing the amount of searches done on learners this year. This will include searches with metal detectors, by school management teams, or by the police.
- If warranted, schools can request the delivery of metal detectors to their schools from our Safe School Directorate. Training on how to use the detectors will be made available.
- Our Safe Schools Directorate will liaise with SAPS on a plan to increase searches in our schools, as well as encourage schools to forge closer ties with their relevant sector units for assistance on short notice.
- Last week, both principals acted immediately, alerting the police and assisting them with their investigation. In both cases, the firearms and alleged perpetrators were found. This is a prime example on how we can work together.
- Last year the Western Cape Provincial School Education Amendment Bill was passed into law for implementation in January 2011.
- This Act provides more clearly defined powers to conduct search and seizure operations at schools. For instance, our legislation bases the right to search and seize on 'reasonable suspicion' and not on evidence alone. It therefore lies in the discretion of the principal and increases the opportunity for principals to exert their authority.
- In both national and our provincial legislation it says that when there is a body search, a principal cannot ask a learner to remove anything other than their outer clothing. However, in the Western Cape, if a principal is suspicious that a learner is concealing a weapon or drugs under their outer clothing, there is now a provision that enables a principal to request a member of SAPS to conduct a more extensive search of that learner's body, which can entail a removal of clothing.
- The Department has great sympathy on how difficult it is for principals and their school management teams to manage searches in schools where learners are hostile and violent. We are therefore currently developing a set of guidelines for principals to use so that when searches are conducted, that they are in full compliance with the relevant law and that the rights of learners are respected.
- Attitudinal programmes, particularly focusing on gangsterism, will also be stepped up in our schools. These will include programmes that focus on conflict management and substance abuse. We will also be increasing the programmes that enable educators to manage conflict in their schools.
The search at Groenvlei Sec was conducted in two classes, one Grade 9 class and one Grade 10 class. A narcotics and explosives search was done, as well as a physical search of the learners. No weapons, alcohol or drugs were found.
One cellphone was confiscated as it contained pornographic material. The phone was handed over to the School Governing Body.
Spokesperson for Minister of Education, Donald Grant
Tel: 021 467 2377
Cell: 072 724 1422