Pupil beaten to death was MP’s niece

2014-08-24 15:01

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The matric girl allegedly beaten to death at a controversial Mpumalanga private school was the niece of Arts and Culture Deputy Minister Rejoice Mabudafhasi.

Now parents who have previously complained about Cefups Academy to the provincial education department say Paballo Seane’s death is only being investigated because her aunt is a politician.

Mabudafhasi told City Press her family was devastated. She and other relatives went to Mpumalanga after her 19-year-old niece died earlier this month.

Last week, City Press reported that Seane was in trouble at school after performing badly in a test. She died at the Nelspruit Mediclinic on August 7.

“We’re hurt and it’s very difficult to get over this. She didn’t get sick and the next thing we hear, she’s dead,” Mabudafhasi said. “We’ll wait for the police investigation to be completed to get what happened.”

A nurse who treated Seane says she was so badly injured that “there was no place on her body to inject her with painkillers”.

The nurse – who spoke on condition of anonymity – said Seane kept repeating the words “please help me” in the emergency room and died before she could be taken to the ICU.

After Seane’s death, the education department appointed a task team to investigate her death and gave the school 30 days to explain why it should stay open.

While many parents and past pupils have welcomed the investigation, others are unhappy, saying the department never took their complaints seriously. Three parents claimed they approached the department after their children were allegedly assaulted by Cefups staff.

No action was taken then, but now the task team looking into Seane’s death has approached them for details.

“I complained to the department and the police when my child was assaulted, but nothing was done. They came to us because a deputy minister’s family is affected. That’s unfair,” said a mother, who declined to be identified.

She removed her son from Cefups after he was severely sjambokked, allegedly by boarding masters, and had to be treated at the Nelspruit Mediclinic.

“We hear the MEC [for education Reginah Mhaule] even accompanied the [task] team to the school. This is a first?...?They never bothered before,” she said.

Another parent, Zandile Mthethwa, said: “When we reported Cefups, the department said it couldn’t entertain a case against a private school. This means our children are animals.”

Mthethwa’s grandchild Nothando Kenny, a former head girl, and her four cousins were beaten last year, allegedly by three Cefups boarding masters, during a beauty pageant and had to be hospitalised.

“An official phoned me [after Seane’s death] to get details about the assault on my children, but she then did not honour a face-to-face meeting she requested,” Mthethwa said.

Gertrude Chawane’s son Steve suffered a broken knee after an alleged assault, which she said she reported to the department’s Ehlanzeni district office, but it wasn’t investigated.

“I’m happy they’re now acting, irrespective of what forced them to do so. I hope Cefups will be closed down,” Chawane said.

Provincial education spokesperson Jasper Zwane declined to answer questions about the parents’ allegations.

“Our request is that we should be more sensitive, show empathy and allow due processes to take place,” Zwane said.

He did say that the school had been investigated before – in May 2009 – and that its management was ordered to stop beating children. He refused to provide details.

Cefups president Simon Mkhatshwa has repeatedly refused to comment and did not respond to requests for his spokesperson’s details.

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