A TOTAL of 43 youths in the KwaZulu-Natal Volunteer Social Crime Prevention Programme for 2010 have been kicked out after they were found to have criminal records.
KwaZulu-Natal MEC for transport, community safety and liaison Willies Mchunu said one of those fired has since been arrested and charged with housebreaking and theft.
Mchunu said the screening process to join the project had now been beefed up. He said the dismissal of the 43 youths would send a clear message that crime would not be tolerated.
The Volunteer Social Crime Prevention Programme had been a runaway success to date "with 1850 volunteers having been trained".
He said volunteers in the project would play a significant role not only as the first line of defence in the fight against crime in their communities but as Fifa stewards during the World Cup next year.
He said the initial target of training 2100 volunteers by 2010 "would be met and exceeded".
The project was launched in 2008 to combat unacceptably high levels of social crime in the province. Volunteers are trained in basic first aid, self defence and "in understanding social crime and local crime dynamics" by police officers from Britain, lawyers, magistrates and the South African Police Service (SAPS).
The deployment of volunteers will take place in areas with the highest levels of criminal activity - in consultation with the SAPS. Each team of volunteers will be assigned a member of the SAPS to work with.
"The outcome of this project will be a reduction in social crime . and the promotion of KwaZulu-Natal as a safe place for communities, tourists and businesses," Mchunu said.
Mchunu's spokesperson, Bheki Mncube, said the department had no option but to dismiss the youths because of the "sensitivity of the task" expected of them.
"Firstly, they work with sensitive information and, secondly, they were initially asked if they had criminal records.
"We can't employ people who are dishonest."