South Africa: Overcrowded classrooms blamed for vicious attack on school’s neighbours



A Durban high school whose principal and one of his teachers were caught on camera four years ago beating pupils for coming late was again in the news for the wrong reasons on Tuesday.

Pupils from Phambili High School in Rossburgh outside Durban‚ allegedly went on the rampage destroying a disputed property across the road. They claim that 10 families‚ whom they accuse of being illegal tenants‚ do not want to vacate the property so that four classrooms can be built there.

On Monday‚ residents said that a number of youngsters in school uniform stormed 247 Sarnia Road with desks and chairs and told tenants that their classrooms were overcrowded. They warned they would be back on Tuesday if the tenants refused to vacate the building which they needed for new additional classrooms.

Panicked‚ the residents of the property obtained a protection order against the school on Monday. However they claim that when they tried to serve it on principal Londa Luthuli on Tuesday‚ he was not there.

Then a few hours later all broke loose when an angry mob descended on the property damaging everything in sight. Residents ran for their life as the mob smashed windows with rocks while others moved inside the rooms and destroyed furniture.

A 28-year-old mother of a five-year-old baby‚ who did not want to be identified for fear of reprisals‚ told TimesLIVE she was washing clothes outside when the group stormed the property.

“I left everything I was doing and we ran for dear life‚” she said.

Her partner‚ who was holding the baby at the time‚ also managed to escape.

But another resident‚ Sizwe Lombo‚ was not so lucky. He said he was hit with bricks‚ rocks and anything that they could throw at him. He suffered a huge wound on his forehead.

“Everything inside the property was vandalised. Appliances‚ clothes‚ radios‚ they vandalised everything‚” he said.

“The principal was given the protection order yesterday to sign. He drove away. He came back‚ he said he doesn’t want to sign it. This morning they went‚ he wasn’t there.”

He said he was injured while he was trying to prevent the group from entering the property.

Luthuli could not be immediately reached for comment as he was busy in negotiations with the tenants on Tuesday afternoon.

But KwaZulu-Natal Education MEC Mthandeni Dlungwana’s spokesman‚ Kwazi Mthethwa‚ condemned the violence that erupted.

“There can never be justification for vandalism‚ violence and anarchy even where there are legitimate concerns. It is completely unacceptable that a few people should continue to hold our schools to ransom‚ including through violence and the destruction of infrastructure that we badly need to empower learners and the next generation so that our learners can play their full role in building KZN and its economy‚” he said.

In 2014 Luthuli and one of his teachers were caught on camera beating pupils who had arrived late. At the time Luthuli said routine lashings were a quick-fix to inherent truancy and late arrival.

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