Boy shot dead in classroom

2009-02-10 00:00

A grade 8 pupil who brought a gun to school to show off was accidentally shot and killed by a 15-year-old friend inside their classroom at a school in Imbali yesterday morning.

A bullet hit Sphamandla Dlamini-Hlubi (15) in the forehead, killing him instantly in front of 45 classmates Zamazulu Secondary.

Pupils screamed for help and ran out of the classroom at the sound of the gunshot, leaving Sphamandla lying on the floor. They were sent home early after the tragedy.

Some of the pupils, aged from 12 to 15 years, said they are too scared to go back to school after the incident. “We have to go to school, but I am really scared, especially going back to the class,” a 12-year-old told The Witness.

The pupils left their school bags with all their books and belongings in the classroom as they fled in terror. Another pupil who spoke to The Witness about seven hours after the incident was still trembling with shock.

SAPS spokeswoman Inspector Joey Jeevan said Sphamandla brought his father’s 9mm pistol to school.

“Sphamandla went to his bag and took out a 9mm pistol and began flaunting it before his classmates.”

Above: Traumatised pupils ran away and left their schoolbags in the classroom after their classmate was accidentally shot with his father's pistol.

His classmates said Sphamandla ejected the magazine loaded with bullets. “He did this several times, unloading the gun, and then pulled the trigger when the gun was empty.” Eventually his close friend took the gun and pointed it at his own head [like he was shooting himself].

“Sphamandla told him to stop, warning the other boy that there was a bullet inside the [chamber]. He ran closer and tried to push the gun away from the boy’s head, but the gun went off and Sphamandla was hit in the forehead. I saw everything. He was injured really bad,” said one of Sphamandla’s classmates.

The 15-year-old pupil, who cannot be named because he is a minor, was arrested and will appear in court shortly. While Sphamandla’s father had not been charged, Jeevan said a case of negligent safeguarding of firearms has been opened.

Sphamandla’s father, Mnsizwa Hlubi, said the news of his son’s death is a double blow. “I was at work and I received a call to rush home because my son had been shot and then I found out that my gun had killed him. It was more than devastating. My wife and kids are devastated by the incident.”

Hlubi said he always kept his gun in the safe inside his locked bedroom.

“I believe Sphamandla sneaked into my bedroom on Sunday when his mother [Thobile Dlamini] had left the bedroom unlocked and was busy in the living room.” Hlubi said when he returned home on Sunday the gun safe was locked and the key was in its place.

Above: A sign at the school warns that guns and other weapons are banned.

KwaZulu-Natal Education MEC Ina Cronjé visited the school and Sphamandla’s family in Imbali yesterday.

She said the incident was disturbing. “What is even more disturbing is how a minor had access to such a dangerous weapon and how it was smuggled inside the school premises since the school is fenced and had a security guard.”

At the school entrance there is a sign warning that no guns are allowed in the school. Cronje said she believed Sphamandla had no intention of using the gun.

“Maybe he wanted to show off, not realising the consequences of carrying a gun. I appeal to the public, especially pupils, not to come to school with weapons. Guns are not toys, they are deadly weapons.”

Cronje said the department will send psychologists to the school today to provide trauma debriefing to pupils and teachers.

Cronje said the department is recruiting 2 980 security guards for schools.

Police investigations into the shooting are continuing.

sandilez@witness.co.za

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