School pupils loitering at the CBD bus terminus have become a headache for authorities who have to deal with rowdy behaviour, fighting and under-age drinking in public.
Now that the bus strike is over, authorities will once again have to deal with these problems.
However, the Central police say they are prepared, and that Law Enforcement officers who work on the Grand Parade are keeping a close eye on the situation.
Before the bus strike, which started more than a month ago and ended last week, police and Law Enforcement as well as Golden Arrow had major concerns about the pupils loitering at the terminus, creating mayhem.
Pupils from the different CBD schools gather at the terminus to socialise, sometimes dressed in casual clothing.
Spokesman for Cape Town Central police, Captain Ezra October said while the incidents involving school pupils have decreased, there are still concerns about them congregating at the terminus, mainly on a Friday.
He said the police’s concerns included scuffles disturbing other commuters and children sometimes drinking alcohol on the Strand Street side of the terminus and the Grand Parade.
He said this was a long standing problem, and attributed the decrease in incidents to the bus strike, and also to the upcoming exams.
“When it is exams it’s usually quiet, and when there is school holidays. Now that the school pupils are preparing for exams, the incidents will quieten down, but Fridays remain a concern.
Wayne Dyason, the City’s Law Enforcement spokesperson, reiterated that there were no incidents reported recently, but said they are keeping a close eye on the situation.
He said Law Enforcement, which has permanent staff working at the Grand Parade, maintain a visible presence in the afternoons and have made some arrests and issued fines where possible.
Mr Dyason said some of their concerns included an increasing use of alcohol among children of school going age on the Grand Parade; violent altercations between rival school groups; a clear lack of respect for authority, as evident from attacks on Law Enforcement officers; students found in possession of dangerous weapons like knives; and students engaging in petty criminal activity like theft of soft drinks.
He said pupils often meet up with non-school going friends on the Grand Parade, particularly on Fridays which appears to be a popular day for truants who engage in anti-social behaviour like fights with rival school groups.
They also interfere with commuters – a trend that has been evident for several months now.
Spokesperson for Golden Arrow, Bronwen Dyke-Beyer, said they aware of the issue and have brought it to the attention of Law Enforcement and the South African Police Services.
She said the terminus is municipal property and Golden Arrow officials are not in a position to control access or take any punitive measures. “We have been experiencing ongoing problems at the Golden Acre and the surrounding Parade area with these school pupils from various local high and junior schools in the City Bowl. Pupils have been running mayhem and uncontrollably for some time and Fridays seems to be the highlight when alcohol and drugs form part of the weekend celebrations.”
She said Golden Arrow had laid a formal complaint with SAPS and they are awaiting a follow-up meeting to further discuss their concerns.
“It is very concerning to hear reports of scholars drinking alcohol, using drugs and harassing other passengers. Unfortunately, this is part of a larger societal problem that requires a nuanced holistic approach from the authorities.”
She said it was not clear why students congregate around the terminus specifically.
Mr Dyason said it is very difficult to control this, as these activities take place in areas where parents and teachers are not present. “The City would advise that schools inform parents of absenteeism that appears especially prevalent on Fridays.”
He said pupils who are found to be involved in these activities could be arrested or fined, depending on the transgression and their age.
Ms Dyke-Beyer said criminal and anti-social behaviour must be dealt with decisively by the relevant authorities. “Golden Arrow has in the past approached specific schools when a pattern of certain behaviours has been identified; we have found these engagements to be very useful.
“Following a recent incident at the terminus, a number of scholars were detained and later released with a warning. Illegal and anti-social behaviour cannot be tolerated and Golden Arrow welcomes decisive action from law enforcement and the police.
“We would advise concerned individuals to please inform any Golden Arrow officials present so that they can request assistance.
Jessica Shelver, the spokesperson for the Western Cape Education Department (WCED), the department had no jurisdiction over pupils outside the school premises.
“We cannot force learners to board the bus at a specific time or ask them to use alternative transport.”
However, she said, a WCED Safe Schools official attended a meeting with Cape Town SAPS recently where these concerns were raised. It was agreed that a follow up meeting will be held with the relevant stakeholders, and that Safe Schools would engage with the respective principals to inform parents of the challenges raised.
She said that all principals were informed. The follow up meeting is yet to be held.
The CapeTowner visited the terminus on Friday May 18. A number of pupils from different schools could be seen congregating at the terminus, well after schools are dismissed on a Friday – some children stayed until after 4pm.
Some of the young people were dressed in casual clothing. It was unclear which schools were involved in these incidents, but school pupils spotted on the terminus included Cape Town High, Harold Cressy High, Salt River High, Trafalgar High, Gardens Commercial High, Good Hope Seminary High, Holy Cross Primary and Zonnebloem Nest High.
The CapeTowner tried to contact all the schools mentioned above, but only two schools responded before our print deadline. Dylan Tommy, the principal of Gardens Commercial High School, said that if anyone does find pupils involved in these incidents they should call the school to report it.
“I’ve had a commuter call me about pupils from Garden’s Commercial making some noise in a bus, and I got all those pupils together and spoke to them about it and I’ve heard nothing since.
“Another complaint I’ve received was loitering, and that has also now been sorted out. I have no control of the pupils when they leave the grounds, so we can only deal with it when we are informed about it.”
Leon Linz, principal of Good Hope Seminary High School, would only comment that “it would help to have access to actual evidence before any adequate response can be provided from our school”.
He referred us to WCED spokewoman Millicent Merton. The public can report any incidents to the City’s Public Emergency Communication Centre by dialling 107 from a landline or 021 480 7700 from a cellphone.