Thirty boys broke out of the residential section of a Kraaifontein juvenile detention centre while two MECs were there for a surprise visit.
During the break-out at the Bonnytoun Child and Youth Care Centre (CYCC), on Monday March 13, the boys damaged equipment and cars. They roamed the facility and climbed onto the roof. All this while Social Development MEC Albert Fritz and Finance MEC Dr Ivan Meyer were visiting the centre to do a spot security check.
A series of security breaches at the facility in recent months has alarmed the community.
Sihle Ngobese, Mr Fritz’s spokesman, said the MECs had been with a delegation of experts on the Child Justice Act.
In January, Mr Fritz’s department appealed to the public for information about several boys who had absconded from Bonnytoun (“Help cops find runaways,” Northern News, January 18).
During that incident, some of the boys attacked staff members and ran away. Of the 31 boys who escaped on the day, all were later brought back. The centre houses children at-risk and those in conflict with the law.
Mr Ngobese said there had been no injuries in this latest incident.
“Nobody escaped the complex,” he said. “They just barged their way out of the residential complex. Some then roamed around the buildings and yard, whilst the unruly ones managed to climb onto the roof.
“Security measures immediately kicked in to prevent anybody leaving the facility, as it went into a shut-down.”
Police were called to help contain the situation. Provincial police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Andre Traut said a case of malicious damage to property had been opened.
Kraaifontein Community Police Forum spokesperson Gavin Riddles said the breach was one among many and residents in the area did not feel safe.
According to Mr Riddles, there were reports that eight children had broken out of the facility at the weekend. This was among many other abscondments over the past month, he said.
“That centre has poor infrastructure and ineffective security,” he said. “And there are children that are over 18 years old who are staying there. These kids are offenders, and the community don’t feel safe.”
Mr Ngobese said he could not confirm whether eight boys had indeed escaped the centre at the weekend, but he conceded that these incidents did happen.
“Last month, 14 boys absconded from the facility but they were all found and brought back,” he said.
“We acknowledge this problem, and we are already ploughing in the resources and the expertise to resolve it. All of these facilities, they were built way before the Child Justice Act and don’t have the infrastructural requirements that are needed. There’s much more work that’s about to go into this place,” he said.
The upgrades to the facility will include more fencing and cameras and access control technology. Mr Ngobese said R14 million had been allocated for urgent maintenance at the youth detention centres.