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Unit set up to probe 40 burglaries and fires in 14 days at Gauteng schools

The education department said two people have been taken in for questioning

09 April 2020 - 17:00 By Nonkululeko Njilo
A school in Soshanguve suffered serious damage in an explosion and fire on Monday. It seems the school was also burgled. File picture.
A school in Soshanguve suffered serious damage in an explosion and fire on Monday. It seems the school was also burgled. File picture.
Image: 123RF/Thuansak Srilao

The number of schools burgled, vandalised or set alight in Gauteng in two weeks had increased to 40 by Thursday, the 14th day of the nationwide lockdown.

This is according to education MEC Panyaza Lesufi, who expressed outrage at the incidents. He said two people had been arrested in connection with the burning of schools in Soshanguve.

TimesLIVE earlier reported that 22 schools had been torched or burgled. Three of the schools which were destroyed by fire are in Soshanguve. Two more schools were burgled in the same area.

In a tweet, Lesufi said that 40 schools had been affected since the start of the lockdown. Further details were not provided in the tweet, which also confirmed the arrests.

Department spokesperson Steve Mabona said a 26-year-old man was arrested after members of the community allegedly caught him stealing after he broke into Tembisa High School.

“Meanwhile, another 27-year-old male was also caught in the act of stealing by the community at Tharabollo Secondary School. This suspect revealed that he, with his accomplices, who are known to the police, were responsible for some break-ins in the past two weeks in the Sedibeng area,” said Mabona.

Gauteng community safety MEC Faith Mazibuko confirmed the arrests of two men.

Spokesperson for the department Pinkie Numa said the two suspects were arrested on Wednesday night.

“The MEC received the report this morning during her visit to the Soshanguve area. She has deployed the Gauteng traffic police saturation unit and the special law-enforcement unit, to work with the police in tracing the criminals responsible for burning schools and clinics around Gauteng,” she said. 

Numa added that the MEC would receive a report into the operation soon.  

Lesufi welcomed the arrests.

“We would like to thank our community members, especially those who played a significant role in protecting our schools by alerting the police about criminals who were caught in the act of vandalism and stealing our equipment at different schools.

“Yesterday, on our visit to some schools that were recently burnt in Soshanguve, we were accompanied by the MEC for community safety and she undertook, working with all law enforcement agencies, to protect our schools, and we are hopeful that working with the community more criminals will be arrested,” said Lesufi.

Mabona earlier said valuable equipment and school groceries were some of the items stolen during the burglaries. Mabona said the incidents would have devastating effects on the functioning of the schools after the lockdown.