Panga attack at school

2013-04-23 00:00

THE Umlulama Secondary School playground turned into a war zone yesterday as two pupils were brazenly attacked with pangas and knives by their schoolmates in a suspected gang attack.

This is the third such attack this year at the school in Hopewell, near Thornville, where officials have admitted there is a problem with gangs.

Siyanda Sithole (16), who was being pursued by panga-wielding pupils, was saved by the school’s cook, who closed the kitchen door on his attackers.

Sithole was stabbed twice in the back and once in the shoulder. He was taken to hospital.

Zwelihle Mkhize (17) was rescued by a teacher after he was stabbed in the back three times. He was treated in hospital and released.

The attacks took place shortly before the morning assembly.

School governing body chair­person Robert Kunene said: “This is the third incident this year and it is difficult to know what the problem is.”

Education Department spokesperson Sihle Mlotshwa said the Hopewell community had a gang problem and “unfortunately that extended to the school”.

“We urge the community to fight that scourge and ensure that the school is protected at all times,” said Mlotshwa.

Ward councillor Bonginkosi Shange would neither confirm nor deny that there was a gang problem in his ward.

“This is difficult for us as these learners play soccer together over the weekends and stay in the same community, but they will fight at school.”

Police spokesperson Lieutenant Joey Jeevan said investigations had established that two groups of pupils were involved in a fight on the school premises which had led to the stabbing of two pupils.

She said the arrest of suspects was imminent and police were investigating the circumstances.

Siyanda’s mother, Ntombikayise Sithole, said: “I was at home in Mkhambathini. I had to rush to the school thinking that they were not telling me the truth about what really happened to Siyanda.”

She admitted that she knew that her son and his cousins were members of a gang, but didn’t know its name.

“He was attacked because he belongs to that gang.”

She said she was worried that the attack had happened in the school grounds where pupils were supposed to be safe.

“How they entered the school with weapons is what must be investigated because there is security at the gate,” she said.

A national school violence study by the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention released last week showed that 22,2% of high school pupils were threatened with violence or were victims of assault, robbery and/or sexual assault at schools in 2012.

A similar survey in 2008 found that 22% of secondary school pupils surveyed nationally had been victims of some form of violence in the preceding 12 months.

The Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention found that while other types of crimes have decreased in schools in KwaZulu-Natal, cases of assault have increased by more than four percent and that almost half of the pupils were victims of theft.

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