PORT ELIZABETH - Gang warfare erupted in parts of Port Elizabeth's northern areas which saw the closure of three primary schools after concerned parents collected traumatised children following shooting incidents on Monday morning.
Meanwhile, four people died in separate shooting incidents in Bethelsdorp and Bloemendal at the weekend.
Police and Tactical Response Team members once again flooded the volatile and tense area which saw community members and school children on high alert amid the sounds of gunfire.
Clifton Jantjies, principal at Strelitzia Primary School in Extension 31, said rival gangs were shooting at each other in front of the school gate and had entered the school grounds on Monday morning.
Jantjies said frantic learners made a dash into the school hall as gunshots rang out. Jantjies said when police got to the scene there was a shoot-out between police and gangsters.
Police spokesperson Colonel Priscilla Naidu said rubber bullets were fired.
Jantjies said: "The children are really traumatised. When the shots go off you can just see how fearful they are. They are exposed to this pattern of behavior at home too and it affects them.
"We are also preparing for exams so I don't know how ready they are going to be," he said.
Jantjies said the school was in dire need of fencing to safeguard the children from gangsters who jump over the wall onto the school premises.
"We appealed to the department and it's going to have a positive impact if we can just get the fencing," he said.
Strelitzia Primary School would remain closed on Tuesday and re-open on Wednesday to give learners time to recuperate.
Helma Boggenpoel, principal at Astra Primary School in Extension 21, said parents started panicking after 30 to 40 gunshots were heard going off in the morning.
Boggenpoel said parents collected the learners and she dismissed staff. Although the shooting was not in close proximity to the school, she said it had a negative impact on the learners. "We have security and our gates stay closed through out the day for the safety of the children," she said.
Yul Billet, principal at Kroneberg Primary School in Extension 21, said a killing on Monday morning at Kolata Street caused panic in the area because learners had to walk through the street to get to school.
Billet said police on the scene had asked learners to turn back because it was not safe at the time.
Naidu confirmed that police were investigating a case of murder after Sergio Moss, 28, was shot dead while asleep in his car. Naidu said it was alleged that two suspects entered a yard in Kolata Street after which two shots were fired through the side window, fatally hitting Moss in the face.
"Our school is in the middle of Extension 21 and 31. There are two rival gangs in those areas, it's not unusual to have this gang activity," said Billet.
He said that earlier this month the gangs were at it again in another shooting incident. "The situation here is volatile and children are afraid to come to school," said Billet.
Naidu said police continued to conduct searches at homes, in the streets and hideouts of known gang members. By Monday police had confiscated a total of eight firearms and ammunition while 12 suspects were arrested in separate incidents.
Naidu said that TRT members were on foot patrol in Barberry Drive in Bethelsdorp on Monday when they responded to rival gangs shooting at each other in an open space near a school. She said one suspect was arrested with a 9mm pistol in his possession.
Mount Road Cluster Commander, Major General Thembisile Patekile, called on the communities in Bethelsdorp to work with police in arresting those involved in the recent shooting incidents that took place over the weekend.
"We have intensified our policing in Bethesldorp and we will be engaging in hardcore policing until we are satisfied that the area has stabilised and the communities are safe," said Patekile.
Department of Education spokesperson Mali Mtima said the school principals were advised to monitor the situation and not to release learners if shootings commenced.
African News Agency (ANA)