Flowers are laid at the gate of the Parktown Boys High School after a learner Enoch Mpianzi's body was found on Friday after he went missing during a "water activity" at the camp in North West. Picture: Nokuthula Mbatha /AfricanNewsAgency(ANA)
Flowers are laid at the gate of the Parktown Boys High School after a learner Enoch Mpianzi's body was found on Friday after he went missing during a "water activity" at the camp in North West. Picture: Nokuthula Mbatha /AfricanNewsAgency(ANA)

Parktown Boys' principal and department officials suspended over Enoch's drowning

By KHAYA KOKO Time of article published Jan 24, 2020

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Johannesburg - Alleged gross negligence in the tragic drowning of 13-year-old Enoch Mpianzi has led to a slew of suspensions, including that Parktown Boys' High School principal Malcolm Williams and Gauteng education officials.

Speaking at a briefing on Friday in Joburg, Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi did not mince his words in stating that heads would roll for Enoch's death, asserting that the trip to Nyati Bush and River Break in the North West was "unauthorised". 

Enoch's body was recovered last Friday after he was carried away by the strong Crocodile River at Nyati two days earlier during Parktown's infamous Grade 8 camp. 

This followed a water activity at the lodge where learners had to build a makeshift bamboo raft that was tied together with their shoelaces. They got into the river with it and a strong-current swept it away and that was when Enoch drowned.

Earlier this week sources told The Star that teachers were nonchalantly playing games while Enoch was enduring his horrific last moments at Nyati.

These revelations led Lesufi to acknowledge that there might have been gross negligence, including large-scale inconsistencies in what had happened. 

"We cannot begin to understand the pain and suffering of the family. But we are committed to ensuring that we hold those responsible accountable. 

"We can now confirm that the school made an application to the district (for the trip) but that the district had not approved the trip - thus making this trip unauthorised," the MEC announced. 

The investigative team from law firm Harris Nupen and Molebatsi, Lesufi added, had already conducted interviews with principal Williams, the schoolteachers who were at the camp and with learners. Teachers were flagged this week as being part of an alleged cover-up of their supposed negligence. 

Insiders revealed that Alex Meintjies, the leader of seven teachers who accompanied the boys to their Grade 8 camp, left the roll-call list and indemnity forms on the hired bus used by the school to ferry the learners to Nyati.

The bus returned to Joburg immediately after dropping them off at the camp. The list of names and indemnity forms only arrived at the lodge on last Thursday. 

Lesufi said the probe's terms of reference included where there was merits in the negligence allegations by both Parktown and Nyati; the failures of the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) officials in approving the unauthorised trip; and Nyati's responsibilities towards the safety of learners.

The MEC said the process for applying for a school trip was three months, unless there were mitigating circumstances. 

He added that GDE district officials, who handled the application file for the trip, had all been placed on suspension. 

Regarding the teachers, Lesufi said they were still to ascertain which teachers were employed by the school and which by the department. 

Daniël Eloff, Nyati's legal representative, said the learners were accompanied by the headmaster Williams, seven staff members and a number of prefects on Wednesday. The scheduled arrival time was 11am however the buses arrived more than three hours late forcing the schedule to be adjusted.

Parents protests outside the Parktown Boys’ High School as part of a #JusticeForEnoch campaign. Video: Bhekikhaya Mabaso / African News Agency (ANA)

The Star

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