Health services halted

Principal of Ummangaliso Primary School Mlungisi Siko talks to Vukani about the incident.

A spate of armed robberies targeted at University of Cape Town (UCT) students and staff has forced the institution to temporarily withdraw its voluntary health services in Khayelitsha.

This comes after six UCT students were robbed at gunpoint outside Ummangaliso Primary School, in Site B, on Tuesday August 16.

UCT spokesperson Gerda Kruger said the students were attacked as they drove in a university vehicle to Ummangaliso to pick up four other students. As their vehicle slowed down to turn into the school, three armed men allegedly approached the car and threatened the students with a firearm.

They then robbed them of their cellphones and handbags, but no one was injured. “The speech and language therapy students were at the school for their professional practice placement. Ummangaliso Primary is one of the partners in the Schools Improvement Initiative (SII) that is run by UCT in Khayelitsha,” she said.

“One final-year student was robbed of the entire patient portfolio she had developed as a final-year requirement. She has no way of retrieving this lost information.”

Ms Kruger said they offered trauma counselling to the students, and the dean’s office at the Faculty of Health Sciences was looking at ways to minimise harm on the students. She said the attack was the second in two months.

She said in June a SII project manager was stopped by two gunmen as she was driving in Site B.

When Vukani visited the school on Tuesday August 23, school principal Mlungisi Siko said he was saddened by the incident and lambasted the perpetrators for robbing the children of Khayelitsha of an opportunity to improve their academic results. When the incident occurred, he said, he was in a meeting with staff and a UCT project manager discussing ways to strengthen their relationship.

Mr Siko said he was shocked when a pupil rushed into the office to alert them of the robbery.

“One of the robbers had a pump gun pointing at the driver and two others had 9mm guns. We are just glad that no was injured,” he said.

“Now that the students have been attacked they would be reluctant to come back to Khayelitsha.”

The project has been running for only three years in Khayelitsha, while in areas such as Langa, Gugulethu and Heidveld it has been operating for nearly ten years without any challenges.

“We are appealing to the community to assist the police in apprehending the perpetrators of this heinous crime,” he said.

On Tuesday August 23, Mr Siko said they had a meeting with various stakeholders to find solutions. He said it was not only his school that was benefiting from the UCT partnership.

Communications manager at UCT Patricia Lucas, said Site B had been identified as a crime “hot spot” saying discussion would be held to look at beefing up security measures. “We hope that the outcome will benefit not only UCT teams but also those who live and work in the area,” she said.

Site B police station spokesperson Lieutenant Marcellus Rajap confirmed to Vukani that UCT students were robbed in Site B.

“A case of armed robbery was opened and no arrest had been made yet. We are calling on the community to assists us in apprehending the criminals,” he said.