Mbilwi Secondary School in Thohoyandou. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)
Mbilwi Secondary School in Thohoyandou. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)

Learner charges teacher with rape at school where ’bullied’ Lufuno Mavhunga died by suicide

By Mashudu Sadike Time of article published May 17, 2021

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Pretoria - A Limpopo school, where a learner died by suicide after a bullying incident there, has been rocked by a rape scandal after a former learner laid criminal charges against a teacher for allegedly sexually grooming and assaulting her.

The 50-year-old teacher, who cannot be named before he appears in court on Monday, allegedly raped a Mbilwi High School learner a number of times in 2018 by luring her to a lodge, ostensibly to offer her private lessons.

The victim opened a case last month, three years after matriculating from the Sibasa-based school near Thohoyandou.

The case comes little more than a month after Lufuno Mavhunga died by suicide after being physically assaulted by a 14-year-old learner outside the school premises in early April.

The bullying incident, which drew public condemnation and shone the spotlight on school bullying, was captured on video by another learner and circulated on social media.

In another case, Mbilwi Secondary School principal Nyambeni Lidzhade reportedly admitted to a corporal punishment incident that took place in his office, but details of the incident are yet to be unveiled.

Contacted for comment, Limpopo Department of Education spokesperson Tidimalo Chuene said: “We have noted the arrests and will comment in due course.”

Lidzhade’s phone was off when the Pretoria News contacted him. He also did not respond to text messages.

On Friday after the arrest, Limpopo police spokesperson Motlafela Mojapelo confirmed the rape case: “A 50-year-old suspect was today (Friday) arrested by the police in Thohoyandou for allegedly raping a 17-year-old learner from a local school at Sibasa, where he was employed as an educator.

“It is alleged that the suspect raped the victim, who was in Grade 12, on several occasions during 2018. In one of the incidents, he reportedly offered to assist her with extra lessons but instead took her to a lodge where he allegedly raped her.”

Mojapelo said the victim only opened a case of rape last month at the Thohoyandou police station. Members of the Family Violence Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit (FCS) immediately took over the case and after a lengthy investigation, the suspect was arrested.

The suspect is expected to appear before the Thohoyandou Magistrate’s Court on Monday on three counts of rape.

Limpopo MEC for Community Safety Mavhungu Lerule-Ramakhanya condemned the incident and called on the authorities to keep the suspect behind bars until the case was finalised.

“I am saddened to learn of the alleged rape of a learner by her teacher, the very same person that we entrust with the safety and the future of our children. I know it took long for the victim to have the courage to speak out, but she will soon find justice and heal from the awful experience. I call on other victims to break the silence and speak so that we can root out the scourge in our communities,” Lerule-Ramakhanya said.

The DA in Limpopo has called for the immediate suspension of the teacher.

The party’s political head for Thohoyandou, Risham Maharaj, said yesterday: “The DA is shocked and saddened that a learner had to endure this alleged sexual abuse at school. Schools should be a safe place for learners as guaranteed by the Constitution. There is no place for teachers in the education system who prey on children and make themselves guilty of such despicable acts. DA councillors and activists will be at court tomorrow.”

Although she is not back at school yet, the 14-year-old teenager accused of Mavhunga’s assault has been released on R1 500 bail. She is in her parents’ care and is expected in court on May 27 on charges of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm.

Pretoria News

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