Wave of destruction at clinic and schools

Air-conditioning systems were ripped out of the walls and stolen at the Parkwood Clinic.

Hundreds of thousands of rand worth of damage has been done to schools in Steenberg and Retreat as well as the Parkwood clinic, following a wave of burglaries in the past two weeks, according to the police.

Steenberg High School and the Thomas Wildschutt Senior Primary School in Retreat were burgled on Sunday July 17, two days before the new term started. It’s just over a month since Thomas Wildschutt was last burgled, on June 24, and Steenberg High had a burglary in May.

And Parkwood clinic was also broken into this past weekend with residents saying that burglaries there happen almost weekly.

In July alone, the clinic was burgled four times and thieves stole furniture, air-conditioning units, surveillance equipment, metal fittings and taps, according to Grassy Park police. They also damaged fencing, ceilings and basins.

According to the police, the thieves stole the clinic’s surveillance equipment and cameras and got in through the roof and windows causing a lot of damage.

Patricia van der Ross, mayoral committee member for community services and health, confirmed there had been repeated break-ins at the clinic.

“It’ been happening continuously, and we’ve tried to update the security at the facility, but even the security personnel are being overpowered.”

A facility protection programme was being set up under which the community and neighbourhood watches would be able to play a bigger role in protecting targeted facilities, she said.

At Steenberg High, thieves damaged the ceilings of several classrooms, including a physics lab, when they broke in and stole electrical wiring, projectors, screens and chemicals, according to principal Brian Mesias.

The physics lab, which had been the school’s pride and joy, had been destroyed, he said.

“Those responsible should take cognisance and stop stealing from their very own. This is your community, and you are taking away the chances of those who are trying to do better through education.”

The community had a responsibility to look after its schools, he said.

“Our schools are an investment in the future of our children and to the community.”

The school had hired security staff at great expense, Mr Mesias said, urging the community to watch over the school and report suspicious activity to the police:

“If you see something, say something. Please come forward. We have to redefine what it means to teach in a previously disadvantaged school. The little we have we have to protect for the next generation. We have to build up and not break down.”

Parkwood resident Phillip Petersen said the community needed to stand together: “Protect our clinic that serves our mothers, grandmothers, our children, TB and HIV patients and those seeking help with drug addiction. We cannot keep quiet anymore when we become aware of stolen goods from the clinic being sold or are aware of the people committing these crimes.”

Mr Petersen worries that the clinic will have to close because of the burglaries.

“We witnessed the closing of the Lotus River clinic after continuous vandalism and millions spent on repairs and equipment. As Parkwood residents, we cannot let this fate befall our clinic. There are too many that depend on this facility.”

In 2018 the Parkwood hall and rent office were destroyed during protest action.

Mr Petersen said it was vital for people to report crime to the authorities.

“It is time we as a community stop the wanton vandalism of facilities that serve our community. Parkwood residents, take pride in what we have and protect it at all cost.”

Steenberg police say that as a result of tip-offs they have made two arrests in connection with the last Steenberg High burglary and two suspects have appeared in court, facing theft and vandalism charges.

Steenberg police spokesman Captain Richard Marcus urged anyone with information about the crimes to come forward.

The City has a dedicated line – 0800 110077 – that informants can call 24-hours a day to report crime. Informants can receive a R5000 reward for information that leads to an arrest or the recovery of stolen goods or contraband.

“All information is welcomed, but a reward can only be paid if the City’s policing resources achieve an operational result that directly relates to information received, like (an) arrest/s, confiscation of contraband or illegal firearms, recovery of stolen goods, rescue of a kidnapped victim, etc,” said mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith.

Thomas Wildschutt Senior Primary referred questions to the Safe Schools Programme, which, in turn, referred us to the Western Cape Education Department, which did not respond by deadline.

The damage caused at Steenberg High School where projectors, screens, chemicals and other items were stolen.
Intruders broke this metal grill at the Parkwood clinic.
Air-conditioning units were stolen during one of the burglaries at the Parkwood clinic.