Patrick Chitumba Midlands Bureau Chief
A school in Kwekwe was on Monday petrol bombed in an act parents suspect was carried out by some among the staff to destroy evidence of abuse of funds.
In a midnight foray, property at Manunure High School’s administration block was destroyed after unknown people allegedly threw a Molotov cocktail — commonly referred to as a petrol bomb — through a window.
The block housed all the school’s administration and financial records, enrolment figures, details of the nearly 3,000 pupils and receipt books.
Parents who spoke to The Chronicle alleged there was gross mismanagement of funds at the school.
“This is an inside job. Someone panicked after reading The Sunday News story that alleged school authorities were stealing a huge chunk of the estimated $1,2 billion circulating in the institutions,” said a man who only identified himself as Ncube.
Parents maintained that those siphoning funds from the school feared exposure and had moved to destroy evidence.
Midlands Provincial Education Director, Agnes Gudo said: “Yes an administration block at a school in Kwekwe was petrol bombed.”
Asked if the bombing could be arson aimed at destroying financial statements at the school, Gudo said she was waiting for a full report from the district education officer of Kwekwe after which she would go through it and be able to shed light on the suspicions.
The school development committee (SDC) chairman Dickson Zhou, said the headmaster, only identified as Mvenge, called him about the fire which he said could have been caused by a petrol bomb.
“It destroyed a lot of things in the bursars’ office but we’re yet to ascertain how much was destroyed in the fire,” said Zhou.
He declined to comment on whether the fire was an inside job.
When a Chronicle news crew arrived at the school around 11AM yesterday, the SDC was in a meeting.
Detectives disrupted the meeting when they arrived to carry out investigations.
A detective said the crime scene could have been contaminated since several people including school staff had disturbed it by walking in and out.
A broken window indicated the spot from where the petrol bomb could have been thrown into the room.
The interior of the office was covered in soot, while desktops, chairs and electrical gadgets partially melted in the inferno.
Parents and pupils who had come to pay fees were being turned back since the administration block was closed.
The headmaster was assisting the police with investigations.
Sources at the school said a security guard on night duty alerted the police and the head about the fire.
“The security guard told the police that the fire started around midnight. He said he heard a sound of breaking glass and saw smoke coming from the administration block,” said a teacher at the school.
Acting Midlands provincial police spokesperson Assistant Inspector Ethel Mukwende could not be reached for comment as she was said to be out of office.
The government has alleged culprits dipping into the $1,2 billion largesse include school development committee officials. It is alleged that some school authorities are allegedly duplicating receipt books as cover to lay their hands on development funds.
In 2015, the government commissioned an audit into schools’ operations following indications of fraud and abuse of funds.
Primary and Secondary Education Minister Lazarus Dokora told our Harare Bureau that such flagrant fraud had informed the government’s decision to consider removing control of the money from SDCs.