Durban - A 20-year-old suspect in uniform who was arrested while allegedly trying to escape from a hijacked vehicle after it crashed in Phoenix this week has been confirmed to be a Grade 11 pupil from a local school.
The principal of the school, who declined to be named, confirmed on Thursday that Sandile Mathebula was a pupil there.
National Prosecuting Authority spokeswoman Natasha Kara said Mathebula appeared in the Verulam Magistrate’s Court on Thursday on charges of robbery with aggravating circumstances.
He was caught on Tuesday for allegedly hijacking a VW Polo from owner Klinsmann Naidoo, 18.
Police spokesman Colonel Jay Naicker said at the time that Naidoo was seated in his Polo when three suspects walked up to him with guns. They pulled him out of the car and got inside, firing several shots as they pulled off, leaving Naidoo in shock on the pavement.
While they were making their getaway, the Polo clipped an oncoming vehicle and flipped, landing on its side.
Two of the suspects, who were also wearing school uniforms, got away. Mathebula was caught while struggling to get out of the wreck.
That KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education said on Thursday it was concerning and shocking that pupils might have been involved.
“Learners should be concentrating on their studies and not involved in self destructive behaviour,” spokesman Sihle Mlotshwa said.
In November, a 17-year-old pupil from the same Phoenix school was arrested for possession of an unlicenced firearm.
It was reported at the time that a teacher had noticed the pupil “acting suspicious” in an exam room. A gun was found when his bag was searched and he was arrested.
The pupil, who was in Grade 10 at the time, appeared in the Phoenix Magistrate’s Court and was released on R1 000 bail. The charge was later withdrawn in court.
Mlotshwa said schools were microcosms of societies and that pupils were part of communities that faced social ills such as crime.
The provincial secretary of the Congress of South African Students, Mhlengi Mabuya, said pupils were “up against criminality and bad influences”.
“We need our parents and teachers to work together and talk to their children, know what their children are doing and what is going on in their lives,” he said.
“It may seem a minor thing, but it can make an impact, give hope to that child and change their mindset so we will not see them going out in school uniform or any anything else with guns.”
The acting chairman of the National Association of School Governing Bodies, Zwile Zulu, also called on parents to be more vigilant.
“Weapons in schools was unheard of. It is a regret that it is happening in our schools.
“I think our children are too exposed to things. They see shootings on television and want that status, want to be seen, looked at and admired that they can hijack a car and be seen driving a car. They are not scared of anyone. They will only regret it when they are in jail,” said Zulu.
He said there was an urgent need to look at the causes of such incidents and deal with them.