Dance of death

2013-10-31 00:00

A FEUD between rival dance groups culminated in the schoolyard slaying of a KwaZulu-Natal teenager, whose filmed murder has shocked South Africa.

The Witness yesterday visited Dann­hauser, the scene of the crime, to unravel the story of the boy’s death.

The distressing video of the schoolyard murder went viral across SA yesterday, and comes against the backdrop of a series of cellphone recordings of school violence. Now as experts demand better management of school environments and security guards to monitor playgrounds, the boy’s family has called for the school’s closure.

What The Witness discovered on the scene is that:

• No teachers were present for the duration of the attack.

• Three other attacks have taken place at the school recently.

• Teachers were trying to stop another aggressive group from entering the school as the fight played out.

• Pupils not involved in the brawl fled, terrified for their lives.

• The fatal brawl played out in front of the principal’s office and staff room.

• Children at a neighbouring school have been warned that a similar attack may be carried out at their school soon.

Bongani Nkabinde’s distraught family are left with chilling images of how he died, after watching the video documenting the attack, believed to have been filmed by a fellow pupil.

“My nephew died screaming like a goat,” said his aunt Fikile Nkabinde.

The family wants to know why no one came to his aid, where the teachers were during the attack, and how the weapons got into the school.

The Witness reported on Tuesday that Bongani (18) was killed after a fierce fight broke out at the school during Monday morning’s prayer assembly.

Tensions were running high among pupils of Sizimele High School, in Dann­hauser’s kwaMdakane rural area yesterday. Those from neighbouring Mana High were worried that the violence might spill over into their school.

Sizimele pupils blamed the murder on jealousy between rival indlamu (a Zulu traditional dance) groups. They said Bongani was a talented dancer and leader of his group, which had won most local dance competitions. A rival group became resentful, sparking the hatred leading to his murder.

A pupil said an argument had started after school on Friday, and a fist fight between Bongani and his rivals took place outside the school.

“When we came to assembly on Monday morning, we never anticipated there was going to be such a bloodbath,” she said.

When the fight broke out in earnest, she ran to class because the boys had knives, a bush knife and traditional weapons.

Bongani, a grade 9 pupil, was apparently killed by a knobkierrie he had brought to school for his own defence after Friday’s fight.

Nkabinde said she had asked him about Friday’s fight. “Bongani said the fight was because of indlamu,” she said.

Nkabinde said the family was unhappy that none of the parents of the boys who had killed Bongani had come to pay their respects, so that the matter could be resolved amicably.

“This is the third time that the school has had such incidents of violence, so I think for the sake of our neighbourhood, the government must close this school because clearly it is not safe for pupils.”

Because the murder had occurred in front of the principal’s office and staff room, the family found it difficult to accept his explanation for why no teachers were at the scene of the fight: that teachers had been trying to block another aggressive group from entering the school.

Bongani’s grandmother, Allies Nkabinde, who had also watched the video of her grandson being beaten to death, said: “I don’t know how I will be able to erase from my memory the image of my grandchild being killed without anyone helping him. The video shows people beating and stabbing Bongani, without anyone helping him,” she said.

Police said yesterday that three people — Sphamandla Mazibuko, Sbongiseni Ndaba and Thabani Langa, all aged 19 — had appeared in the Dannhauser Magistrate’s Court in connection with the incident. They were remanded in custody until November 6. The case against two others was not enrolled, pending further investigation.

ASKED what was being done to curb school violence, Basic Education Department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said pupils should understand that they go to school and not a warzone.

He urged parents to check their children’s schoolbags for weapons before they left home.

He said the department has an agreement with police where 18 000 schools are linked to police stations and pupils are taught conflict resolution. Pupils were also taught conflict resolution through life orientation.

He said discussions over installing metal detectors at schools were ongoing, adding: “Policing alone won’t be enough to solve this”.

Professor Vusi Mncube, associate professor of educational leadership and management in the College of Education at Unisa, blamed ineffective school management for the scourge of violence.

He recently led a research team on violence in schools and is currently conducting workshops for principals on how to prevent violence at schools in Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal. Mncube believes schools should be well managed and teachers professional in their approach to prevent violence.

Patrick Burton, executive director at the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention, recently released results of a study on school violence, which found that about one million high school pupils were threatened with violence, or had been victims of assault, robbery and/or sexual assault at school in 2011.

“It is easy for schools to blame parents, and parents to blame schools. But schools need to have control of what’s going on in their environment.”

Teachers must have authority and set boundaries in classes, and schools should be well managed, said Burton.

School violence is not necessarily getting worse, but it has been given more exposure because it goes to a wider audience due to video recordings, he said. “I don’t believe that security or metal detectors are going to solve the problem, because most violence takes place inside the classroom where there’s no security guard.”

National Association of School Governing Bodies chairperson Reginald Chiliza said: “We’d like to see security guards posted at schools as the department had promised. Weapons don’t sit in class, but are carried in by pupils.”

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