Panga-wielding gangster pupils clash at Humansdorp school
At least four Humansdorp Senior Secondary School pupils were hacked or stabbed on Friday as more than 30 members of opposing gangs armed with pangas (kabsabels) and knives fought a pitched battle in the grounds of the school.
Innocent pupils were caught in the middle of the sickening violence, which broke out just after the bell had rung to summon the boys to their end-of-year exams.
The incident was culmination of simmering tension between the half dozen gangs operating in the area and was triggered apparently by the return of 30 suspected gang members to school after their suspension earlier this year.
The boys were allowed back to write their exams in line with the Education Department legislation which stipulates that no pupil can be prohibited in this regard.
One source, who asked not to be named, said the growth of the schoolboy gangs in Humansdorp flowed in turn from the spillover of gangsterism in Port Elizabeth’s northern areas.
“Gangsters from there are buying up cheap property here and starting their trade in tik and they’re using the children.”
A grade 10 pupil was stabbed three times in the back and slashed twice on the back of the head with a panga during the fight. Speaking to The Herald at Kouga Partnership Hospital where he was waiting to be transported to Livingstone Hospital in PE, he readily admitted he was a member of the Vendettas gang.
“We were armed because we received a message yesterday that the other gangs — Naries, Kings and Agtien Varke — were going to be waiting for us at school.
“They were there and they came for us, and we fought back.”
He denied that the Vendettas were involved in dealing drugs.
“We are just a group of friends. I smoke marijuana that’s all.”
The boy's name came up earlier in the day when a group of confused and anguished parents in the Gill Marcus area described how armed Vendettas regularly accosted their children outside the school.
On Wednesday, it was alleged, half a dozen gang members including the grade 10 pupil attacked one of their boys with pangas and only his school bag saved him from being seriously hurt.
He said this account was untrue.
“It wasn’t me and no we do not wait there outside the school.”
Another boy also waiting to be transferred to Livingston had a single panga wound in the back of his head but he was hit with such force that doctors had ordered that he needed to undergo further checks for any injury to his brain.
The traumatised-looking 15-year-old Grade 9 boy, who asked not to be named, said he had arrived at school and had joined his friends to wait for their Afrikaans exam to start. “A group from one gang came past and started arguing with a group from another gang. Just as the bell went off they pulled out weapons and started fighting. Before I knew it one of them chopped me on my head.”
The boy’s worried father said his son did not belong to any gang.
“This is the first time something like this has happened to him.”
At a home in Gill Marcus, half a dozen boys in grades 8-10 together with their parents pressed into the tiny lounge to air their dismay and outrage.
One boy, who asked not to be named, said they were attacked by the Vendettas as they arrived at the school.
“They hit us with pangas. They hit the girls who were with us as well. We threw stones to defend ourselves. After some time the teachers locked us in a classroom. The Vendettas ran away when the police arrived.”
Although they had only sought to defend themselves, the SAPS officers had hauled them down to the police station, he said.
“Consequently none of us wrote our exam.”
One mother, who asked not to be named, said Friday morning’s attack on their children was culmination of a series of incidents including the attack on Wednesday.
“Our children are not gangsters but they are suffering because of this action and the failure of the principle to get both sides of the story.
“What are we to do?
“They must either close the doors of the school and not let anyone write the exams or let our children write at a safe place at the Education Department and pay for their transport to get there.
One source said seven pupils in all had been injured in the fight but police spokesperson Brig Thembinkosi Kinana said they had confirmation of only four injuries.
“Four boys aged between 14 and 18 were assaulted with knives/ pangas and were taken to a hospital for treatment.
“Four boys aged between 16 and 18 years old, who were allegedly involved in the fight, were questioned and released into the care of their parents.
“Four cases of assault with the intent to cause grievous bodily harm will be opened and will be investigated by the detectives of Humansdorp SAPS.”
School principle Shaun Felix, who has only been in the job three months, referred questions to the department’s Humansdorp district office which in turn referred them to provincial spokesperson Malibongwe Mtima, who said the violence had erupted at about 7.45am.
“About 38 learners were involved.”
Four learners sustained minor to serious injuries and all were hospitalised, he confirmed.
“The culprits were taken to the police station and parents were requested to collect them from there.
“Arrangements were made with police to patrol before and after school.”
Mtima said the school would be open on Monday and exams would go ahead.
“Management will be looking at ways to beef up security and to engage with the community. Counselling will be offered to the traumatised learners and learners who could not write this morning's exam because of the fight or who were too traumatised to write properly will be given another opportunity to do so at some point.”