Durban - The accidental shooting of a 13-year-old primary school pupil this week has prompted Education MEC Senzo Mchunu to call for urgent action - possibly a new law - to ban guns at schools.
A security guard was on duty at an oThongathi (Tongaat) primary school when the teen allegedly removed the guard’s private gun from his unsecured bag.
The Grade 7 pupil at Hambanathi Primary, sustained a single gunshot wound to his thigh and is reported to be in a stable condition at Osindisweni Hospital, in Verulam.
According to the school principal, he had allegedly removed the gun from the guard’s bag and was attempting to shove it into the waist of his pants, when a shot accidentally went off, said the school principal, Mrs S Mahlinza.
The guard, who was meant to be unarmed, is contracted by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education.
He has been arrested and charged for failing to secure his firearm.
Mchunu said the recent spate of school shootings in the US was an indication of how dangerous carrying a gun to school could be.
“Urgent discussions will be held to put in place rules and regulations, even legislation, to ensure that this sort of thing never happens again,” Mchunu said in an interview yesterday.
“Schools should be gun-free zones. The guard should not have carried his private gun to the school. There was no need for it.
“If a guard carried a gun at night, then one would understand. But, during the day, when there is no threat? At this time, there are hundreds of innocent pupils and teachers around. They should not be in danger because of an unsecured gun.”
The MEC also appealed to school governing bodies, responsible for hiring security, to scrutinise the companies and ensure unarmed, trained guards were hired.
He said while the guard was facing criminal charges, an internal investigation would also be conducted.
“The boy could have been killed. We cannot allow something like this to happen again. We have to take all precautions. The security company who hired the guard will also have to give answers.”
Mahlinza said the incident happened at around 2.30pm on Tuesday, when the school day had ended.
“The guard was opening the gate to let the kids out when this unfortunate incident happened. From the reports I have received, the pupil removed the gun from the guard’s bag without his consent. He then tried to place it in the waist of his pants.
“At this stage it is unclear if the pupil was trying to steal the gun or if he was just fooling around.”
She said no other pupils had been injured.
“The next morning I spoke to all the pupils and warned them about such mischievous behaviour. I also cautioned them that it was wrong to touch anyone’s bag or possessions without permission.”
Provincial police spokes-man, Captain Thulani Zwane, confirmed the incident.
A source, who had spoken to the boy after the shooting, said he had claimed the guard had given him the bag and asked him to remove something from it.
“He said the bag was very heavy, and as he opened it the gun fell out and a shot was fired. He denied trying to steal the gun or that he was playing with it.”
The boy’s mother declined to comment.
She said she was unclear about the details.
Claire Taylor of Gun Free South Africa said it was imperative that schools in the country become gun-free zones.
“It should be criminal to take a gun on to a school property,” Taylor said.
“This incident just shows that children and guns are a lethal combination. This time, the child survived. Next time, he or she may not be so lucky.”