Drum roll please…

Members of the local organising committee (LOC) for the Mitchells Plain Schools Marching and Drilling Competition

With three days to go before the 10th Mitchell’s Plain Schools Marching and Drilling Competition, pupils, coaches, organisers and Mitchell’s Plain police are putting the final touches to the event taking place at Stephen Reagon sports field, in Westridge, on Saturday October 14.

As media partner, the Plainsman was privy to the final meeting of the local organising committee (LOC), which includes representatives from Mitchell’s Plain police, the Mitchell’s Plain Community Police Forum (CPF), Mitchell’s Plain Neighbourhood Watch, Metro Emergency Medical Service (EMS), City of Cape Town Facility Management Committee (FMC) and co-ordinator Midea Events, at the sportsfield on Monday October 9.

Similarly a “dry run”for the representatives of the participating schools and the LOC will be held at the site tomorrow, Thursday October 12, at 2pm, to ensure everyone knows the drill for the Saturday’s event, which starts at 8am.

From toilet paper to trophies; medical to disaster risk management, Very Important Person (VIP) guests – the pupils in this case – to top brass from the police and South African National Defence Force (SANDF); and parking to seating, almost everything thought of was discussed and confirmed for the competition.

Kader Miller, chief executive officer of Midea Events, said he was proud of the LOC, who have come together to host the event.

“I feel so proud. I can say after a decade it is now a community event,” he said.

Warrant Officer Mornay Kleinhans, from Mitchell’s Plain police station’s social crime prevention unit, who chaired the meeting, said to him the VIP guests were the children who were meant to shine.

The competition is the brainchild of former Mitchell’s Plain SAPS cluster commander, Major-General Jeremy Vearey, now police head of detectives in the Western Cape. At the time he was very involved in community development and saw the need for youth programmes because of gangsterism (“Drilling competition reaches 10-year milestone”, Plainsman, August 16).

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.

Warrant Officer Cornelia Louw, administrator of the drill project, said from humble beginnings the competition had grown from Mitchell’s Plain to expand to 33 schools competing in Port Elizabeth, whose finalists will also be competing on Saturday.

The drill project has had such an impact that it has been incorporated into the curriculum at schools in the Eastern Cape.

Warrant Officer Louw said strangers have become friends and relationships between schools and their local police stations have grown.

“The beat of the drum brings tears to your eyes and joy to your heart,” she said.

She said if organisers and hosts of the competition did not have the children’s interests at heart the event would not be successful.

Warrant Officer Louw further appealed to businesses to adopt a drill school.

“Some areas have challenges with sourcing uniforms and or school shoes in order to display unity in their drill squads, as it is all about discipline,” she said.

Most schools do their own fund-raising to keep this project sustainable. “Let’s invest in our pupils’ future and support our youth at risk.

“Together we can do more. It’s the first year we have role-players on board from various departments sharing the partnership and therefore I am so grateful,” she said.

The CPF has arranged hampers, in addition to goodie bags, for the participants and will be hosting the adjudicators (representatives from the SANDF), the police, sponsors and executive members of the neighbourhood watch.

Abie Isaacs, chairman of the Mitchell’s Plain CPF, said the event must be a success as it impacts on the lives of pupils and the community.

He cited an example of a former drum major who use to sell dagga at school who is now a strong, independent individual. “It turns a negative person into a positive person,” he said.

“It is our role as the CPF to ensure that there are projects addressing the situation in Mitchell’s Plain.

“Drilling helps with school safety, discipline and allows the youth to be a part of a group, other than gangsterism or drugs,” he said.

Mr Isaacs said a sport project titled “Addicts in Africa” was rolled out in 2006, in partnership with the British High Commissioner, British Airways, Charlton Athletic Soccer Club International, Ajax Cape Town, SAPS and the CPF.

The slogan implied that youth should be addicted to sport and not drugs.

About 30 community soccer coaches were also on board and the following year the drilling competition was launched.

Included in the logistics for Saturday’s event, members of the police’s Child Rapid Response Unit (CRRU) will be on hand to tag children to ensure that no child goes missing.

Collin de Hart, vice chairman of Mitchell’s Plain Neighbourhood Watch, said: “We have been part of the drill competition, since its inception and we support it because of the pupils.”

Neighbourhood watch duties on Saturday will be to ensure a safe environment for the pupils and the public by patrolling the arena.

No alcohol is allowed in the arena.

Mr De Hart encouraged the community to attend the event. Entry and participation is free.

The Mitchell’s Plain Schools Marching and Drilling Competition in numbers:

800 pupils will be competing for 50 trophies

100 Mitchell’s Plain Neighbourhood Watch members will be on duty

30 off duty police officers will be volunteering their time in addition to regular police patrols

20 Disaster Risk Management staff will be on duty

10 Metro Emergency Medical Service (EMS) staff will be on duty

Six police stations that is Mitchell’s Plain, Plettenberg Bay, Steenberg, Elsies River, New Brighton and Gelvandale in Port Elizabeth will have officers at the event.

Five Mitchell’s Plain police station social crime prevention officers have been working two hours a day, five days a week – over and above their regular duties to train pupils.

Five food vendors will be offering refreshments