A deadly robbery described as well-planned and executed with military-like precision has left children at the Viva Foundation School in Mamelodi East traumatised, with images of Monday’s attack still fresh in their minds.
Around 12:10 a group of men entered the school’s premises at the same time as 19 international students and two professors had arrived to take part in an outreach programme.
Under the guise of being part of the international group, the group of men quickly took control of the school once inside.
An employee at the school, who declined to be identified, witnessed the ordeal. She had opened the gate for the visitors.
She noticed that some of the visitors seemed out of place because their clothes appeared dirty, but didn’t say anything as she assumed they were part of the visiting group.
After opening for the American students, she directed them to wait at a certain area and went to call the principal.
Rheece Kriel, the son of Viva Foundation chairperson Leon Kriel, was in a classroom at the time, painting the walls of a converted container when he saw a commotion. He initially thought the American students were playing a game with the school’s pupils.
“I looked outside and saw the Americans arriving. Then they started going down and rushing around, I didn’t know what was happening, I thought they were playing a game,” Rheece said.
“Then I saw the pistols.”
Once terrified students and pupils started screaming and crying, the gunmen started forcing people into the classrooms.
“They drove everyone inside here and made them stack against the wall, I was here [in the classroom] where they told me to sit down,” Rheece said.
The gunmen then started searching everyone again, checking their bags and pockets.
At this point, the gunmen had already robbed the international students of their laptops, cellphones, cameras, passports, plane tickets and US dollars.
As the gunmen fled the school, Rheece said he heard four gunshots ring out.