School a dump for bodies

Since 2015, four bodies have been found on the grounds of Cascade Primary School in Tafelsig – the most recent a little over two weeks ago – and the school is demanding a proper fence to be erected for their safety and protection.

However, the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) says it has a large demand for the upgrade of fences due to the fact that they are stolen or vandalised on a regular basis.

WCED spokesperson Bronagh Hammond told the Plainsman they are also extremely costly, with the average fence costing over R1.2 million for each school.

On Monday September 16, the body of a 40-year-old man was found in front of one of their classrooms with gunshot wounds to his upper body. Prior to this, a couple was found dead on the school’s field in 2018 and a man’s body was found lying next to the school fence adjacent to Butress Street in 2015.

The circumstances surrounding the latest murder is unknown at this stage, however, police believe it is gang-related.

Police spokesperson, Sergeant Jerome Voegt, said the school is used as a thoroughfare at night.

Last year, the bodies of the couple, a man and woman, aged 25 to 30, were found on the school’s sports field on Saturday October 27, at 4.23am, both shot in the head (“Bodies found
on sportsfield”, November 2 2018).

On Monday March 9, 2015, at 7.30am, a man, 21, was found by a passer-by lying next to the fence adjacent to Butress Street. The man had several bullet wounds to his body.

Principal Gale Adriaanse said their current fencing, which is concrete palisade, is easily broken down, to gain access to the school.

“It does not serve the purpose of securing our school, as we cannot see who enters through the gaps in the fence. People have free access to the school,” she said.

Ms Adriaanse said rival gangs live in the vicinity of the school and gun crossfires happen on a regular basis. During breaks the teachers and prefects have to form a human barricade to keep pupils off the field and out of danger.

“We have been reporting this matter since the first incident but our cry has been falling on deaf ears,” said Ms Adriaanse.

“We have become so desensitised by this as it has become a regular occurrence, school needs to go on as ‘normal’. What can we do if we don’t get the help we need?” she said.

Ms Adriaanse said the security companies do not want to serve the school as it is too dangerous for them to patrol.

She said she needs a bullet proof vest to protect herself, as she needs to be the first on site when these incidents occur.

“I don’t think they (the various role-players responsible for safety at the school) value our lives as we are expected to do our job even though the circumstances are not favourable.”

The school’s administrator, Zelda Joshua, said they protested on Tuesday September 17 on the corner of Spine Road and Paulsberg roads, as they have had enough of the bodies found at their school.

“We come to work not feeling safe, our school is surrounded by rival gangs and we are exposed to the shootings daily. Some of us leave the area when we go home but our pupils stay, said Ms Joshua.

“We just want help. Our school is not safe. We need the community to assist us but they fear for their own safety too.”

Washiela Harris, the DA’s proportional representative (PR) councillor, said she has visited the school. She said when staff and pupils arrived at the school on September 16, the body was removed.

“We have asked the neighbourhood watch members to patrol the school, we have also spoken to the community surrounding the school premises. The school is in need of new fencing, there are too many empty spaces. Standing at the classroom, one cannot see what goes on at the back of the school as the hill obstructs it,” she said.

Ms Hammond said the WCED is extremely concerned about violence within communities spilling over onto the school property or on the perimeters of the school.

This is not only a safety risk, but is very traumatising for pupils. Communities should respect the learning institutions and the pupils it serves, she
said.

“We are focused on improving school safety through a variety of means, including increased cooperation with other government departments – local, provincial and national. It also includes the upgrade of physical infrastructure and the implementation of programmes aimed at reducing violence on school grounds, which will include school fencing,” said Ms Hammond.

She said they are committed to assisting schools where possible, within budget, but also appeal to communities to avoid violence near schools, placing young children at risk, as well as to desist from stealing or vandalising school property.

Segeant Voegt has asked that anyone with information about the body found at the school on September 16 call Mitchell’s Plain police on 021 370 1600 or Crime Stop on 08600 10 111.