Close to 4 000 spectators filed into Stephen Reagon Sportsfield, in Westridge, on Saturday October 14 for the 10th Mitchell’s Plain Schools Marching and Drilling Competition.
The action-packed day saw 800 pupils, representing 25 primary and high schools, from Mitchell’s Plain, Steenberg, Lotus River, Elsies River, Vredendal, and as far as Plettenberg and Port Elizabeth, drilling and marching their hearts out.
The spectators were on their feet, cheering for their drill squads while the teams showcased their discipline and skill to the members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) who were adjudicating.
Mitchell’s Plain police officers saluted the participants and the local community police forum (CPF) and neighbourhood watch kept everyone safe.
Spectators Crystal May, from Portland, Edwina Scheppers and Angela Carolus, both from Lentegeur, had front row seats. They brought their camper chairs and put them against the fence, close to where participants entered and exited the competition arena. Ms Carolus said they enjoyed the vibe, while Ms Scheppers said the discipline taught in drilling had positive spin-offs for the community.
“The youth are kept off the streets and they are able to use their energy in a positive manner,” she said.
Ms May said she was there to support her local school, Liesbeeck Primary.
In the high school section, Tafelsig, former winners of the competition in 2014, 2015 and 2016, were determined to take the trophy home again but were beaten by Elsies River High School.
This is the first time a non-Mitchell’s Plain school has won the competition, which has spread to the Eastern Cape.
In the primary school section, Harvester won the competition for a third consecutive year with Carla Philander, winning the title of Best Drum Major for the second time in a row.
Winning primary and high schools go on to compete in the Eastern Cape on Thursday August 9, next year.
The Mitchell’s Plain CPF will be accompanying the winners to share best practices.
Abie Isaacs, chairperson of the Mitchell’s Plain CPF, said while the Eastern Cape police and their education department were supporting the event, they battled to gain support from their local forums. He thanked the competition’s local organising committee (LOC), including representatives from Mitchell’s Plain police, the Mitchell’s Plain CPF, Mitchell’s Plain Neighbourhood Watch, Metro Emergency Medical Service (EMS), City of Cape Town Facility Management Committee (FMC), co-ordinator Midea Events and media sponsor the Plainsman, for making the event such a success.
“Everything fell into place as planned,” he said. “To the winners – their hard work paid off, proving their excellence. There is no such thing as a loser, just that our performances need to be tweaked for next year,” he said.
Mr Isaacs said sponsorship remained a challenge and invited local businesses to realise their social responsibility by supporting the competition.
“This is going to remain a Mitchell’s Plain event. It is no longer a project or a programme. It is a local brand,” he said.
Mr Isaacs said relationships were forged with local government, with the presence of Eddie Andrews, councillor for Ward 78 and mayoral committee member for area south; and that hopefully Ricardo Mackenzie, DA member of the Western Cape Provincial legislature, would get the secondary tier of government on board.
However, he said, he was dismayed by the lack of support from provincial and national police, who had not yet given the competition recognition for its social crime prevention component.
“We hope to see more positive spin-off but for that to happen we need more support,” he said.
Mr Isaacs said the Eastern Cape had gotten their education department on board, who had made drilling a part of their curriculum.
Kader Miller, chief executive of Midea Events, who has supported and marketed the event since it started in 2007, proudly said it was now a Mitchell’s Plain community event and that this year he had been able to take a back step.
Six judges from the SANDF, based at Youngsfield in Wynberg, were kept on their toes scoring participants on their uniform, grand march pass and exhibition.
On duty Mitchell’s Plain police officers and members in civvies were ready to help on the field and ensure the competition was a success.
Acting station commander Colonel Jan Alexander saluted participants passing him during the grand march pass, and addressed them during the opening of the competition.
“I look at these young boys and girls, and I must remember that they are our future and could possibly be our leaders, we must never forget,” he said.
Colonel Alexander said there are eight important objectives participants learn through drilling, that is: order – it helps maintain an organised unit; morale -it trains discipline and group unity; enjoyment – as a fun activity it promotes use of imagination; fellowship – it teaches one to take orders and build confidence; leadership – as it teaches one to give orders; self-control – paying attention to leaders; respect – regarding the rights of others; and obedience – for participants to follow rules and regulations.
He committed to ensuring the community of Mitchell’s Plain received the proper service “it deserves”.
“I humbly request the community in return to stand by the organisation in the fight against crime,” said Colonel Alexander.
Major General Jeremy Vearey, Cape Town cluster commander and founder of the competition, made participants shout out the names of Morgan and Veronique, who led Portland and Tafelsig high schools’ drill squads, respectively, during the first competition in 2007.
The drilling programme is aimed at diverting youngsters from crime, instilling discipline, teaching them the importance of teamwork, manners and respect, leadership and self-confidence.
Lynn Phillips, secretary of the CPF, said the Child Rapid Response Unit (CRRU) tagged 1 500 children, with bands detailing their name, surname, age and parents’ details.
“We had one missing child and found two other children but all of them were reunited with their families,” she said.
Warrant Officer Cornelia Louw, chairperson of the LOC, said teamwork, positive spirits among committee members, the excitement among teachers, parents and spectators; and schools displaying their banners said they were serious about their branding.
She confirmed that no incidents had been reported.
“We are grateful to the Father, for keeping the rain away,” she said, as there was reportedly a chance of rain.
Ms Louw also praised fair and professional adjudication.
She agreed with Mr Isaacs that corporate sponsorship was a challenge.
The LOC is due to have a debriefing on Thursday October 19, at 7.30pm, at Mitchell’s Plain police station’s boardroom.
Brigadier Cass Goolam, suspended Mitchell’s Plain police station commander, dressed in civvies, attended the event and said the annual competition has stolen his heart.
He said the competition had a massive impact on crime in the area.
“It has also improved the relationship between the police and the community,” he said.
“I’m here to show support although I am under suspension, for whatever reason, I will always remain a part of Mitchell’s Plain,” said Brigadier Goolam.
Fourteen police officers, including Brigadier Goolam, were suspended on Monday September 18, following the disappearance of 15 state-issued 9mm pistols firearms from the station.