Strategies to curb gang war

Premier Helen Zille addresses concerned concerned parents and teachers.

Government officials, parents, teachers and principals of schools in Lavender Hill met on Friday June 2 to discuss plans to address the gang violence which has flared up again in the area.

The meeting was held a few days after four schools, including Lavender Hill High and Hillwood, Levana and Prince George primary schools, were closed because of continuous shooting in the area (“War forces school closure”, Southern Mail, Wednesday May 31).

The meeting was in response to parents who locked the gates of the schools, calling for intervention and more presence by law enforcement agencies in the
area, particularly during school time.

On Wednesday May 24, tea-chers from Hillwood Primary School, which is situated opposite a notorious gang battle field, were left traumatised when they were caught in the middle of gang shootings.

The four schools were also officially closed on Monday May 29 and Tuesday May 30 in the interests of pupil and teacher safety.

One teacher was treated for a stroke because of the trauma.

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Premier Helen Zille was on the panel addressing those in attendance at the meeting on Friday along with Western Cape Education Department officials and Education MEC Debbie Schäfer; Mitchell’s Plain Cluster Commander Major General Gregory Goss – who was representing police minister Fikile Mbalula; director of the City of Cape Town’s law enforcement agencies Robbie Roberts and MEC for Community Safety Dan Plato.

Each directorate took an opportunity to suggest possible solutions to the situation in Lavender Hill.

Ms Zille announced that
R3 million would be redirected from a provincial government project to deploy a stabilisation unit in Lavender Hill.

“Last year we spent two-and-a-half million rand on the gang stabilisation unit which was deployed in Manenberg and which had a very profound impact on gang activity in the area. Although it is not our mandate, I have taken R3 million so that we can have that unit in Lavender Hill,” said Ms Zille.

She added that although they are doing their bit, the long-term solution is intergovernmental partnerships.

Ms Zille couldn’t go into detail about specific strategies the directorates, especially the South African Police Service and the other law enforcement agencies, have planned as this might risk the information being leaked to gang members, making the operations ineffective.

Ms Zille thanked teachers for their dedication.

“I am aware that this has been a very traumatic time for teachers. We would like to express our sincere condolences for the stress, pressure and trauma that teachers face working in these conditions. We want to thank them very much for the perseverance they’ve shown year in and year out to ensure that our children at least get some opportunities despite circumstances,” she said.

Mitchell’s Plain Cluster Community Policing Forum chairperson, Lucinda Evans, who was also on the panel, mentioned other solutions including the introduction of the “Shot Spotter” in the area – a device that has been used in Hanover Park and Manenberg that detects gunfire so that law enforcement agen-
cies can respond to shooting crimes.

JP Smith, the City’s mayoral committee member for safety and security, and social services, said, however, the technology is expensive and the City needs funds to roll it out in the
area.

Ms Schäfer said the department was concerned with the situation in Lavender Hill.

“It is very frustrating for us because we can try and keep the children and teachers safe in the school, where they are generally safer, but outside of schools they are not so we have to depend on police,” she said.

Major General Goss confirmed that three gangs are all within a 500 metre radius in the area and the schools are directly affected because they are situated in the middle of the gang turfs.

He explained the operations that had been undertaken by the police and said 10 well-known gangsters had been arrested.

He encouraged the community to continue to work with police with information that would assist in the arrest of gang members.

Hillwood Primary School parent and school governing body chairperson, Adrian Coller, said he hopes the directorates keep their promises.

“We had meetings before where things were promised but nothing came of it. We as parents are waiting to see if the promises to protect our children and their teachers will be kept,” said Mr Coller.

Another meeting will be held later this week to further discuss strategies.