KwaDukuza - Maureen Lucky Khuzwayo was described on Monday as a likeable business studies professional who loved her job and was always prepared to put in extra effort to benefit education.
But the life of the Zephania Secondary School teacher came to an abrupt and brutal end in an execution-style killing that has instilled fear in the KwaMaphumulo community, outside KwaDukuza, and has led to a warning by her colleagues they will not return to their classrooms in January unless measures are put in place to ensure their safety.
Khuzwayo, 52, a married mother of four, was shot three times on Friday just as she was about to leave the school premises after the release of progress cards to parents and pupils.
An unknown man entered the school and asked for a Grade 11 pupil’s report that had already been collected by the pupil before the man’s arrival.
“He pointed the gun at her and fired twice,” said a teacher who asked for anonymity for fear of reprisals. “Khuzwayo fell to the ground and the man jumped over her and walked away. We thought he was leaving but we were wrong. He turned around, walked back and shot her in the head and walked away with the gun in his hand. We rushed to her rescue as she lay in a pool of blood.”
Khuzwayo, who taught at the school for 16 years and was head of its commerce department, was shot in the arm, stomach and head, and died on her way to the local uMphumulo hospital.
Officials of the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education visited the school on Monday to offer counselling to traumatised staff and pupils, and also to hear of the events that led to the murder.
A day before the shooting, the school was broken into and a computer and the school’s cheque book were stolen, they were told.
A teacher said she was having sleepless nights after witnessing Khuzwayo dying, which she said lasted about 10 minutes.
“The suspect fired a warning shot before shooting Khuzwayo at close range,” she said, battling to contain her emotions.
She said the gunman had not introduced himself when he went up to Khuzwayo to ask for the report card.
Khuzwayo went to search for it, but when she told the gunman she could not find it, he continued to “hover” around the premises, while other staff members kept watch.
“We walked out of the admin block as a group and found the man still standing outside,”
she said. It was then that he pulled out his gun and fired a warning shot which dispersed the group of teachers, leaving Khuzwayo alone.
When police arrived after the shooting, they took the school security guard, Thokozani Ndlovu, and drove around the area in an attempt to find the suspect.
However, the search was unsuccessful.
Ndlovu said he had earlier seen the gunman on the premises and had asked him if he was being attended to.
“He told me that Khuzwayo was helping him,” he said.
However, Ndlovu and Khuzwayo’s family believe there is more to the killing that needed to be investigated.
“This killing has nothing to do with a report card… it’s outside affairs that have spilled into the school,” he said.
“He shot Khuzwayo and walked away, then he decided to walk back to finish the job and leave her dead…this person wanted to make sure she was dead.”
Principal Bheki Mhlongo said the pupil, whose report card had been requested by the gunman, had already collected his report before the shooting. He said the boy had passed all his subjects.
Asked if the gunman was a parent of the pupil, Mhlongo said it was unclear, because some pupils lived with guardians.
He said the pupil lived with his mother nearby the school and his father was employed at a university in Durban.
Teachers have threatened not to return next year if the gunman is not caught.
They have also asked the department to provide metal detectors they hope will deter people from bringing weapons into the school.
Mbuyiseni Mathonsi, provincial secretary of the SA Democratic Teachers Union, which Khuzwayo was a member of, said the shooting showed how vulnerable teachers were because of lack of security.
Department spokesman, Muzi Mahlambi, said the issue of security at schools was a concern. “We are trying with limited resources to put security in schools. We never thought that a person would just walk into a school and shoot a teacher,” he said.
KZN police spokesman Colonel Vincent Mdunge said a case of murder was being investigated, but no arrests had been made.
Khuzwayo’s grieving family is, meanwhile, preparing to bury her on Saturday.
Family spokeswoman Sibongile Khuzwayo said: “The family is hurting after her death and we are finding it hard to believe that her death was as a result of a progress card. It has nothing to do with that…it must be more than that.” - Daily News