Pretoria - A third suspect has been arrested in the “space cookie” case that saw more than 90 pupils from Grades R to 7 complaining of nausea, stomach cramps and vomiting at Pulamamadibogo Primary School in Soshanguve, Block Y.
Two suspects, Amukelani Nyulunga, 19, and Ofentse Maluleka, 21, were initially arrested for allegedly selling muffins laced with a narcotic effect to children, National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Lumka Mahanjana said.
A third suspect, Katlego Matlala, 29, appeared along with Nyulunga and Maluleke in the Soshanguve Magistrate’s Court on Friday.
The trio were remanded in custody for a formal bail application on Wednesday.
Mahanjana said the three were facing 28 counts of attempted murder, after 19 more charges were added.
“It is alleged that the children started vomiting, experiencing stomach cramps and behaving strangely at school.
“The school principal called an ambulance, taking the children to the clinic and transferring them to the hospital for further observation.”
Mahanjana said Nyulunga and Maluleka were arrested on the same day of the incident while Matlala handed himself to the police and was arrested on September 26.
Gauteng MEC for Education Matome Chiloane said he was pleased that the police arrested the third suspect in the case.
“We wish the affected learners full recovery during this Term 3 recess and hope they return healthy and ready for Term 4,” said Chiloane.
The pupils were hospitalised after allegedly consuming muffins laced with dagga on Wednesday.
The Gauteng Department of Education said pupils from the Soshanguve school bought the “space cookies” from a street trader who sold food outside the premises.
“Emergency services on school premises attended to all 90 affected learners. However, they were all subsequently rushed to medical facilities where their condition will be monitored,” he said.
Chiloane expressed concern and urged parents to remain calm amid the ongoing police investigation.
He also urged pupils to be cautious about the food they bought and the traders they bought from.
The trio were allegedly vendors with stalls selling food close to the school.
The DA’s education spokesperson in Gauteng Khume Ramulifho called for vetting of vendors.
He said the party would apply pressure to the provincial government to implement safety measures to prevent a repeat of the incident.
Ramulifho said: “Gauteng schools lack a functional vetting process for vendors to ensure that learners are sold safe, hygienic and healthy food. The DA will continue to pressure the department to implement the vetting process for all vendors trading outside school premises across the province to protect the learners from drugs and food poisoning.”