13 Year Old Teen Suspect in Principal Shooting May Face Trial as Adult

February 20, 2024
Gauteng province's Education Minister Matome Chiloane | Report Focus News
Gauteng province's Education Minister Matome Chiloane

In a distressing incident that has intensified concerns over school violence in South Africa, a 13-year-old boy is under arrest following the alleged shooting of his school principal, leading to serious injuries. Authorities are considering trying the young suspect as an adult, a decision that underscores the gravity of the situation. The incident occurred at a primary school in Germiston, a suburb east of Johannesburg.

The victim, a 51-year-old principal, is battling for life in intensive care. This case has sent shockwaves throughout the nation, highlighting the urgent need for addressing the menace of violence within educational settings. According to police reports, the teenager purportedly used his father’s firearm to carry out the attack. Subsequently, the father was detained on charges of firearm negligence and is slated for a court appearance.

Further unsettling revelations came to light when Gauteng’s Education Minister, during a visit to the affected school, disclosed the existence of a “hitlist” created by the boy. This list allegedly named three teachers, pointing to a premeditated act of violence. The minister elaborated on a disturbing narrative involving a WhatsApp group used by the boy and his peers for planning the attack, and previous incidents where the boy brought ammunition to school.

The legal proceedings against the teenager are complicated by South Africa’s Child Justice Act, which typically presumes children aged 12 or 13 to lack criminal capacity unless proven otherwise. In this case, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has prompted a judicial inquiry into the boy’s ability to discern right from wrong, alongside an evaluation of his development across several dimensions.

This case has raised alarm over the prevalence of gun-related crimes and their impact on children in South Africa. Experts in social work and child welfare have voiced their concern, emphasizing the role of familial and educational environments in preventing such tragedies. The broader issue of safety within schools has also come into focus, especially in Gauteng, which has witnessed similar incidents of violence in recent weeks.

In response to the shooting and other incidents, local authorities have pledged to bolster security measures across schools, including the installation of CCTV systems in identified high-risk institutions. This tragedy not only calls for a legal response but also a collective reflection on societal responsibilities towards preventing violence and ensuring the safety of children in educational settings.