A3Manenberg, a town full of uneducated school children, stranded teachers, guns, drugs, daily shootings and a deficiency of policemen.

This is what Manenberg now looks like after two disagreeing gangs, The Americans and Hard Livings, have taken over and used the area as a battlefield. On the 12th of August 2013, 16 schools had to close their doors after learners got caught in the crossfire between the two mobs. Teachers and school busses could not enter the school grounds as it was too unsafe for them and they were forced to retreat from the violent scene immediately. Three people have already been shot, all this happening on the same road in Manenberg in a matter of two days, with the most recent incident involving a woman who was wounded in both legs while sleeping beside her children.

Some Manenberg residents said at the beginning of August 2013 that gang violence is destroying the future of the youth in their community. Community members took to the streets on Saturday 17 August 2013 to protest the ongoing gang violence after several people were killed in recent weeks. A resident, Amelia Kiewiets, said they have had enough. “In most cases the community gives in to the shootings, but as a person in this community I say we must turn it around. We must be able to say we’re not afraid.”

On Friday 16 August 2013, Western Cape Social Development MEC, Albert Fritz, pledged more funding and called on non-governmental organisations to intensify their programmes in Manenberg. The MEC was visiting the crime-riddled suburb, where he happened to grow up. He promised to give a local trauma centre more funding, adding that a trauma counselling service in Manenberg is critically needed. “Teachers and children in Manenberg are traumatised. We and other stakeholders that specialise in trauma counselling have agreed to roll out an intervention programme.”

Western Cape Premier, Helen Zille, has also spoken up about the crisis situation in Manenberg. Zille has outlined a joint intervention plan implemented by the Provincial Government and City of Cape Town in a bid to address the problem. “After having discussions with the affected educators from twelve schools in Manenberg, the city and the province have worked out, together with the schools and with the SAPS, an intensified plan to ensure the safety of the Manenberg community.” The government has supplied R6 million to help create a program that will see the employment of more police members in the area of Manenberg. These police members will patrol the suburb as well as secure a safe way for learners and educators to enter and leave schools. Helicopters have also been deployed to patrol the area of Manenberg and be on the lookout for possible shootings. The main leaders of the gang mobs have decided to call a “truce”, because too

Education, in particular basic education, is important for individual and societal development. The effects of educational segregation during Apartheid are evident in the systemic problems of inadequate facilities and the discrepancy in the level of basic education for the majority of learners. Basic education is an important socio-economic right directed, among other things, at promoting and developing a child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to his or her fullest potential. Basic education also provides a foundation for a child’s lifelong learning and work opportunities. To this end school access – an important component of the right to a basic education guaranteed to everyone by Section 29 (1) (a) of the Constitution – is a crucial condition.

The Constitution, as well as The Bill of Rights, also recognises that children need protection. More specifically in the context of social welfare, children have the right to “family care or parental care, or to appropriate alternative care when removed from the family environment, as well as the right to “be protected from maltreatment, neglect or abuse”, and to what is generally termed socio-economic rights, namely rights to “basic nutrition, shelter, basic health care services and social services”. Is the fact that children are being caught in the middle of gang-related crossfire, not maltreatment?

The main leaders of the gang mobs have decided to call a “truce”, because too many children are getting involved or hurt and losing out on their education, though the gangs themselves are the reason. Only time will tell, but hopefully something drastic gets done and both the Government as well as the leaders of these mobs stick to their “guns” and stay committed to helping the children.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)