Beaten schoolboy ‘died of cancer’

2017-03-26 06:00
Mpumalanga school principal Khutje Mseteka

Mpumalanga school principal Khutje Mseteka

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An Mpumalanga school principal, who is facing disciplinary action for beating a pupil who died this weekend, may escape a murder charge.

Sources close to the investigation told City Press that the postmortem results released on Friday showed that pupil Siphamandla Choma, 15, died from cancer. Choma died last Sunday at Middelburg Hospital.

Khutje Mseteka, principal of Manyano Primary School in Mhluzi near Middleburg, allegedly beat Choma with a stick last June and knocked him off his feet, resulting in his falling on his spine. Choma became paralysed after the incident and was wheelchair-bound. Before the assault, Choma and another pupil were accused of stealing R150.

Mpumalanga police spokesperson Brigadier Leonard Hlathi declined to confirm the postmortem results on Friday.

“We cannot communicate the results because they form part of the investigation. There is an initial case of assault that we are investigating. The postmortem results will be submitted to the director of public prosecutions to make a decision on whether to prosecute or not,” Hlathi said.

However, the source who cannot be named because he is not authorised to speak to the media, said: “The boy died from cancer … nothing related to the beating.”

This means Mseteka will only face misconduct charges from the department of education and a lesser criminal charge of assault. Corporal punishment is banned in schools and teachers administering it get charged internally.

Mpumalanga education spokesperson Jasper Zwane said the first disciplinary tribunal session sat on March 17.

Zwane declined to reveal if Mseteka had been previously charged with administering corporal punishment.

“This process will proceed until the department receives a judgment from the [disciplinary committee’s] chairperson. It is for this reason that we request not to divulge more information about the principal since that may jeopardise the processes that are under way,” he said.

City Press requested comment from Mseteka, however, his phone was off and he did not respond to messages.

Teachers and residents declined to speak to City Press.

Zwane confirmed his department had received civil suit papers from Choma’s family demanding R25m in compensation.

Not the first of its kind

The Manyano Primary School case is not the first corporal punishment incident in Mpumalanga after which a pupil has died.

In 2014, Paballo Seane, 19, died allegedly after she was sjambokked at the notorious Cefups Academy in Mbombela for failing a test. Seane was Deputy Arts and Culture Minister Rejoice Mabudafhasi’s niece.

Mpumalanga education spokesperson Jasper Zwane could not confirm or deny if a murder charge was laid with the police. The results of Seane’s postmortem have not been made public.

The department investigated the R60 000-a-year private school after the incident and failed in its attempts to deregister it and close it down after Cefups Academy owner Simon Mkhatshwa successfully applied to the Pretoria High Court to set the department’s decision aside.

The court, however, banned Cefups Academy from administering corporal punishment and directed its management to give employees letters telling them they should refrain from beating pupils.

Cefups Academy was also ordered to allow the department to install a complaints box.

Zwane said: “All indications for now suggest that the school is complying with the order.”

Read more on:    education  |  crime

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