Photo: Supplied

Durban - Pandemonium broke out when unknown gunmen stormed into a Grade 6 classroom at Luvisi Primary School in Nquthu on Tuesday, shooting dead the deputy principal, Vusi Ntombela, 47, and 12-year-old pupil Elizabeth Nhleko.

Elizabeth suffered a serious chest wound and died in hospital, while fellow pupil Bongumusa Cele, 12, was said to be in a critical but stable condition on Tuesday afternoon.

The traumatised children reportedly scurried for cover as the gunmen sprayed bullets towards Ntombela, who suffered five gunshot wounds.

KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education spokesman Muzi Mahlambi said the pupils had been sent home for police to conduct their investigation.

“We are calling for calm and for people to stop speculating about the motive for the killings because that is now subject to police investigation. We will be sending a team of psychologists to the school for a trauma debriefing,” he said.

Ntombela was also the Speaker of the Nquthu local municipality, but Mahlambi would not discuss his appointment in the municipality while he kept his position as a deputy principal.

The police arrested three suspects an hour later, and a firearm was recovered.

“The motive for the killing is not known at this stage. Nquthu police have registered cases of murder as well as attempted murder,” said provincial police spokesman Colonel Jay Naicker. The KZN commissioner, Lieutenant-General Mmamonnye Ngobeni, congratulated Nquthu police for the swift arrests.

“While we condemn the brutal manner in which this educator and pupil were killed, we are pleased that police were able to act swiftly and trace the suspects immediately after the crime was committed. ‘We will ensure that we throw the book at them,” she said.

The South African Democratic Teachers Union also extended condolences to Ntombela and Nhleko’s family and friends.

Union provincial secretary Nomarashiya Caluza called on the Department of Education to seriously consider providing security guards. “We hope that the innocent souls we have lost in the school yards shall nourish our drive and commitment to creating safe schools in our province”.

The KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Liaison, Willies Mchunu, said: “I am deeply shocked by this incident which occurred in full view of school pupils. We are also sad and angered that a pupil has lost her life, another was injured and the rest must be traumatised,” he said.

Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube joined Mchunu in condemning the shooting.”We all feel the terrible pain that has been inflicted on the families and the entire community of Nquthu.

“This clearly shows that criminals have scant regard for human life,” said Dube-Ncube.

The Mercury