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Teacher accused of fatal punch ‘missing’

Durban - A teacher who allegedly repeatedly punched a 7-year-old pupil on his chest earlier this year, possibly causing his death just weeks later, has disappeared and could be teaching elsewhere because of an apparent bureaucratic bungle.

The female teacher, whose name is known to the Daily News, is alleged to have assaulted Zolani Gwala, a Grade 2 pupil at Mnamatha Primary School in KwaNyuswa, near Hillcrest, after he had got into a scuffle with another pupil over a pen.

Fama Gwala is considering suing the Department of Education over the death of his 7-year-old son, Zolani, who died after he was allegedly repeatedly punched by a teacher. Picture: Jacques Naude. Credit: DAILY NEWS

While the KZN Department of Education has claimed it had reported the teacher to the SA Council of Educators (Sace) and that she could no longer teach anywhere, the profession’s regulatory body has denied this.

Sace’s chief executive, Rej Brijraj, said he was not aware of any complaint against the offending teacher, or a request from the department to strike her off its register.

Brijraj said a teacher’s name could be struck off the roll even before being found guilty by a court of law.

The department’s spokesman, Muzi Mahlambi, said the teacher, who had been contracted by Mnamatha Primary’s governing body, had disappeared after the matter was reported to the school.

She had been found guilty of using corporal punishment after an internal investigation.

Zolani’s father, Fama Gwala, said his son had died in hospital on April 4, about a month after he was allegedly punched.

Gwala, 42, who is blind and depends on a state disability grant, said his son had complained of chest pains in the weeks leading to his death.

“We think that the incident happened some time in late February, because at the beginning of March he started complaining of chest pains,” he said on Monday.

“We only became aware of the incident at that point and confronted the principal.”

Zolani was seen by a doctor twice before being transferred to hospital on the day he died.

Gwala said he was considering suing the department for damages.

The department’s superintendent-general, Dr Nkosinathi Sishi, had visited the family on May 6, a day before the general elections, Gwala said, explaining they were given an apology, food parcels - and a “donation” of R5 000. “They explained that they are not paying for the life of my son,” Gwala said.

The department offered to help Gwala’s 20-year-old daughter by placing her at a college next year.

“We were not bribing him. The situation we saw at that house was one in which we would help even on a door-to-door visit,” said education spokesman, Muzi Mahlambi.

Police spokesman, Colonel Jay Naicker, said an inquest docket had been opened.

Police were awaiting the post-mortem report.

The KZN Department of Health had not responded by the time of publication to questions on the post-mortem and why Zolani’s death certificate reflected the cause of death as being “under investigation”.

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