Western Cape Premier Helen Zille has released her latest newsletter, in which she discussed the criminal threat to broadband for disadvantaged schools.
Zille said one of the game changers in the Western Cape is to integrate e-learning into their education system.
This requires every school to have free Internet access, which in turn requires that they are all linked to broadband networks.
By the end of 2016, almost every school in the Western Cape should be linked to broadband, said Zille.
However, the areas from Nyanga through to Khayelitsha have not seen any broadband connectivity yet.
When Zille enquired about the lack of connectivity in these areas, the answer was simple: crime is preventing it.
“The contractors have refused to work there because they have been repeatedly robbed at gun point, and their equipment, including cell phones and money, was stolen,” said Zille.
“Apart from the fact that they fear for their lives, they cannot meet their delivery schedules if their programmes are constantly disrupted by crime.”
In one case, workers were robbed at gunpoint on two separate occasions while working at the same site in Nyanga.
They were busy connecting 19 sites to broadband for the benefit of local residents. “The contractor packed up and left, refusing to put his staff at further risk.”
“So here we have a profound irony: our e-learning game changer is primarily meant to assist disadvantaged schools, but we cannot deliver connectivity to these schools because of crime.”
Theft of fibre optic cables
Apart from criminals preventing the roll-out of networks, criminals are also stealing fibre cables.
“This is a dreadful new phenomenon, which brings no commercial value at all to the thieves, while playing havoc with our budgets and delivery plans.”
“Neotel, our service provider, now brands their fibre optic cables so that criminals are informed that connectivity cables contain no valuable metal and are not worth stealing. We hope they are fast learners.”
She said that unless communities wish to protect their infrastructure, there is a limit to what the government can do.
“It is hard work to lay cables – but also to dig them up. Surely the perpetrators are seen by community members who know that a crime is being committed?”
“We need them to be our eyes and ears on a 24/7 basis if they want the investment required to improve their children’s lives.”