Early on Worker’s Day morning, Tuesday May 1, hundreds of children from Khayelitsha descended on an open field in France, Site B, to play soccer on the tarred space along Jeff Masemola Road.
The Khayelitsha police made the most of the long weekend by hosting the mini tournament with the help of local business people and residents to keep children off the streets.
Police and the community used the day to jointly raise awareness over social ills.
The teams jostled to be first in the queue at the registration point. Most had come to be mere spectators but ended up forming their own teams.
Business owners and community members also joined hands to sponsor food and beverages for the occasion, doing their bit to help the police curb escalating crime and gangsterism in Khayelitsha.
Police said the day was about taking children off the streets and occupying their minds with positivity.
Captain William Fortuin, from Khayelitsha police station, said the current situation in the townships showed them that young people and their needs and challenges cannot be ignored.
He said police also want to show a different side of themselves.
“We have all sorts of crimes done by young people who are not preoccupied. Most young people are used by the older ones to do crimes. We felt let us target those 14 years and younger for the day. We are not only playing sport but giving them positive information. We teach them about their rights and abuse,” he said.
He said police strive to change the lives of hundreds of children from Khayelitsha and surrounds.
SAPS sector commander for Khayelitsha, Captain Ntandazo Mncanca said they decided to bring the boys together to talk about all sorts crimes with them and alert them to the dangers of crime.
“We have a problem of glue (sniffing) at schools now. We have noticed that these young boys are not doing a thing during school holidays. We decided to occupy them with something to do in order for them to distance themselves from these ills,” he said.
He said residents should work with the police as they can’t do it alone.
“These kids are theirs. But parents are part of the challenge now because some lock their kids out when they punish them. Kids should not be vulnerable. Girl children too can be exposed to rapes and other social ills. Parents need to work together with us so children can have a good future,” he said.
Residents and businessman from Mtotywa and Sons, George Mtotywa, said he was thrilled to have been part of the day. He said when his family heard about the day, they decided to be part of the collective. “Our contribution as a family was because we are part of this community. We also run a business here so we want to take children off the streets too. We believe that children should not be involved in crime. We know with in an initiative like this, they will learn and meet and make new positive friends,” he said.
After the long day and exhausting event, food was served for all including the spectators. Police and the community members had their hands full, feeding the troops.