Nearly 200 schools burnt down, vandalised or broken into across South Africa during lockdown
Nationally, 183 schools have either been burnt down, vandalised or broken into since the lockdown, which started last month. Provincial police spokesperson Captain Mavela Masondo didn't rule out the possibility of a syndicate being involved, saying it forms part of their investigation. Four schools in Soshanguve, north of Pretoria, have been torched since the national lockdown began, apparently with no sign of theft. Soshanguve High, Amogelang Secondary, Phuthanang Primary and Lethabong Secondary all suffered structural damages worth millions of Rands due to acts of arson by unknown people. Basic education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said apart from the damage to 55 schools in Gauteng, 72 schools were targeted in Mpumalanga, seven in North West seven and three in KwaZulu-Natal.
Soshanguve High School has been burned to ruins after the fire destroyed the school's administration block, as well as valuable equipment and furniture, according to Gauteng Department of Education spokesperson Steve Mabona. In the early hours of Wednesday morning, 8 April 2020, a resident alerted the principal of the school that the building was on fire, Mabona said. The principal watched on as Tshwane Fire Services fire fighters battled the blaze and hours later, they managed to extinguish the flames. "However, the administration block was burnt down, literally the roof caved in and everything burnt to ashes. All valuable equipment and furniture were lost in the fire," Mabona said. "The value of the loss is still to be determined."
The fire department and police have launched an investigation to determine the cause of the fire. This was the fourth school that has been torched in Soshanguve during the lockdown.
A syndicate is suspected to be behind recent attacks on public schools in Gauteng after more than 50 schools were either broken into or set alight in the last two weeks. At least 41 suspects were arrested in various areas across Gauteng for the 55 incidents in which schools were broken into or damaged in apparent arson attacks. Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said on Monday, 13 April 2020: "We believe there's a syndicate at work there."
Captain Masondo said investigations were still continuing. "Most of the 41 suspects who have been arrested so far have appeared in court and charged with burglary and arson. Whether they are part of a syndicate or not will form part of our investigations," he said. Masondo said 17 suspects were arrested in Johannesburg, nine in Tshwane, seven in Sedibeng, four each in Ekurhuleni and the West Rand.
Minister of basic education Angie Motshekga said it was disheartening that criminal elements in communities could destroy the infrastructure of their own children. "I am in constant touch with [police] minister [Bheki] Cele and with the assistance of the state intelligence forces we are following leads to the immediate arrest and prosecution of every single criminal responsible," Motshekga said.
KwaZulu-Natal education MEC Kwazi Mshengu said three laptops, a microwave oven and 50 e-readers were stolen from the state of the art school in KwaMashu, north of Durban. Mshengu last week reported that one classroom was completely destroyed in a fire at Bambazi High School in Emmaus, Bergville.
National Association of School Governing Bodies chairperson Matakanye Matakanya said, "We are worried about the future of the pupils from these schools. Even though there is a bit of criminality but we believe that mostly it is people who are fighting for tender security contracts." This claim was also popular in Soshanguve after the fires.
Source: News 24 and Sowetan