In a midnight foray, property at Manunure High School’s administration block was destroyed after unknown people allegedly threw a Molotov cocktail — commonly known 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 our Bulawayo Bureau alleged that 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 Ms 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, Ms Gudo said she was waiting for a full report from the district education officer of Kwekwe after which she will go through it and be able to shed light on the suspicion.
The school development committee (SDC) chairman Mr 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 are yet to ascertain how much was destroyed in the fire,” said Mr Zhou.
He declined to comment on whether the fire was an inside job. When the 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 referred 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 The Herald that such flagrant fraud had informed the Government’s decision to consider removing control of the money from SDCs.