Disorganised police search at Gugulethu school leaves MEC disillusioned

Cape Town – A surprise search for weapons and drugs at a Gugulethu school fell flat when no sniffer dogs pitched up, cops claimed they weren’t told about the operation, and two minors were placed in a police van.

Police officers also allegedly told the two male pupils who were found with knives on Thursday that they shouldn't worry because they "were just doing this for the media".

Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schäfer said the search and seizure operation at Fezeka Secondary School was organised with the police two weeks ago.

But she was left "very disillusioned", she told journalists in the courtyard.

When she got to the school at 11:30, it seemed as though the police cluster had not informed the station to provide officers or sniffer dogs.

"First of all, the police were unprepared. Second of all, the communication is non-existent in the department in this area; third of all, they appeared to find it quite a joke," she said after a few classrooms were searched.

"I can see why my safe schools directorate complains continuously that when they really need the police to be here, they are not here."

'I will apologise to the parents'

But acting station commissioner for Gugulethu, Colonel Patrick Benenengu, said he had not been informed of the operation in time.

"I was called 15 minutes before 11:00 to tell me I must meet the MEC at 11:30."

On the boys being put into the van, he said the parents were subsequently called, as per protocol.

"It's not okay, but we rectified it. I will apologise to the parents."

He said the boys claimed they had to protect themselves from attacks while walking to school. They would get off with a warning.

He was not aware that an officer had referred to the media.

About 10 police officers eventually combed through a few classrooms to look for weapons.

Body searches

Some pupils muttered "yoh, yoh, yoh" under their breaths or furrowed their brows at the blue uniforms.

They duly handed over their schoolbags. A few clung tightly onto handmade Mother's Day cards.

Boys were told to roll their socks down in the search for concealed blades.

Girls, with their arms above their head, in another classroom, giggled as a female officer conducted a body search.

The school's safety and security officer, Sibongile Hlakula, said the search was organised after some pupils said they would kill a fellow pupil.

Gangsterism was a problem and she wanted to safeguard the children at the school.

Schäfer said she would be following up on why there was a lack of communication. She understood the province's police were under-resourced, but said they needed to be properly trained.

Watch the search operation unfold here:

 

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