Criminal charges have been laid against educators at Parktown Boys’ High School in Johannesburg.
This emerged after the release of the report looking at the circumstances surrounding the death of Grade 8 learner, Enock Mpianzi, in January.
The investigation found the teachers, who had accompanied the children to a Grade 8 orientation camp at the time of the tragedy, to have been negligent for failing to call off the river activity when they realized the learners had not been issued with life jackets.
Mpianzi died after a makeshift raft he and his fellow pupils built capsized in the Crocodile River at the Nyati Bush Lodge in the North West.
Mpianzi was laid to rest last month and was the fifth child to die at the camp.
‘Nyati Bush Camp’s version disgraceful falsehood’
The Gauteng Department of Basic Education appointed firm Harris Nupen Molebatsi to uncover the circumstances surrounding the tragedy.
“We find that there’s negligence on the part of the school for not having the accurate and correct roll call list of all attendees at that camp and that the relevant educators should be held responsible and charged and that includes the headmaster as the ultimate commander in chief or the CEO of the school. The fact is that, if the correct roll call list had been used they would have realized 18 hours earlier that a boy was missing,” says the Director of the Harris Nupen Molebatsi Attorneys, Peter Harris.
The report has described the Nyati Bush Camp’s version of the drowning as a disgraceful falsehood.
“Our finding is that they quite clearly. They should have been issued life jackets. When we put that to Knoetze of the camp, he said ‘we only issue life jackets for people who go down the river and because this took place in shallow water, we didn’t think that they should have life jackets’. But we know it didn’t take place in shallow water, we know it took place in the river. So we asked him how many life jackets he had at the camp? He said 12. Now there were 204 learners, we find that the camp was reckless in the extreme in allowing boys to go into the river in those conditions.”
Both the camp and the educators were negligent
Findings against the owner of the camp, Anton Knoetze, were also made.
Knoetze allegedly claimed that the levels of the river on the day of inspection by the firm were a metre higher than what they had been during the exercise and that the learners, in fact, did not enter the river. Harris says their findings dispute this.
“When we conducted an inspection in loco on the 24th of January 2020, Mr Knoetze said to us that the level of the river was a metre higher on the 24th than it had been on the 15th of January, which is when the water exercise with the learners took place. During the course of our investigation, we looked at various photographs with a close eye and scrutinised them. The level of the river on the day of the inspection in loco and the day of the exercise was much the same. So we found that the evidence given to us by Mr Knoetze that the river was a metre low on the day of the water exercise was misleading and false.”
Below is the full report into the tragedy:
On the issue of life jackets, the firm found that both the camp and the educators were negligent in allowing the learners to take part in a water activity without life jackets. It notes, however, that the Headmaster, Malcolm Williams, stopped the exercise after realizing learners embarked on the activity without adequate safety gear. Harris says despite knowing the activity would take place, the camp only had 12 life jackets when there were over 200 learners.
“Our finding is that they should quite clearly been issued life jackets and they weren’t issued with life jackets and we asked them how many life jackets he had at the camp, he said 12. There were 204 learners. We find that the camp was reckless in the extreme in allowing boys to go into the river in those conditions without life jackets. We find the school educators equally negligent in not stopping the exercise because they knew it would end up in the river because the agenda for the camp said river to swim.”
The report has recommended that the Nyati Bush and River Breakaway in the North West be held liable for the dangerous conditions at the orientation camp
Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza his department is working to have Nyati Lodge blacklisted as a venue for school activities.
“Police are investigating that aspect and unfortunately our investigators didn’t have access to the docket so we will wait for the police to come. We will give them the report as well and hopefully it will assist them to find what went wrong. There will be no school from Gauteng that will go there and that is why I am speaking to the Minister so that we can have this blacklisted. But we will act and I think as a department we would have failed in our responsibilities if we can’t act and act decisively.”
This #EnockMpianzi story shows you that a 13 year old paid with his life because adults who were meant to care for him made negligent decisions that cost him his life.
— Bonga Dlulane (@BongaDlulane) March 4, 2020
— POQO Descendant (@Unak311) March 4, 2020
The more I read about #EnockMpianzi, the angrier I become. And that is how callous a school can be when it places their traditions and reputation above that of a child's well being. Hopefully more private schools will re-evaluate their "charges." because what are you getting?
— now known as HAMISH (@Hamish_Hoosen) March 4, 2020
There’s a massive lawsuit loading. #EnockMpianzi
— Thabiso TT Tema (@ThabisoTema) March 4, 2020
Pure Negligence…we didn’t even need the report, we’ve been knowing. 😔 #EnockMpianzi
— #DrNoms (@NombinaH) March 4, 2020