Not clear if NWU drowning victim could swim

2012-01-23 20:36

Johannesburg - A North West University student who drowned in the swimming pool on its Potchefstroom campus at the weekend has been identified as Thabang Makhoang.

He was enrolled for a Bachelor of Engineering course in mechanical engineering after matriculating in 2010, university spokesperson Kiewiet Scheppel said in a statement.

Makhoang, 19, of Wolmaransstad, was with 76 other students when he drowned on Saturday after they participated in a fruit festival.

The group went to the Fanie du Toit sports grounds pool to clean themselves up. It was not clear whether he could swim.

Provincial police said on Sunday that the other students and the conductors of the orientation did not notice that Makhoang was no longer with them when they left the pool.

His body was found at the bottom of the pool by another group of students who went for a swim later.

Scheppel said Makhoang's family was brought to Potchefstroom, where the campus rector, Professor Herman van Schalkwyk, spoke to them on Monday afternoon.

"Van Schalkwyk said the family were very sad and emotional," she said.

"The next-of-kin are currently receiving counselling from a team of psychologists of the university and will later be supported with the funeral arrangements by social services."

The family had asked that their privacy be respected and that they be given time to mourn their loss, Scheppel said.

  • Makatikamusona - 2012-01-23 20:43

    Very sad indeed. Advice can't swim don't go in waters as deep as your knees

  • Koos - 2012-01-23 21:14

    I am very very sorry for this complete waste of a good life with beautiful potential. Imagine the initial pride in this humble family from Wolmaranstad: Our son has been accepted to study mechanical engineering!!! Then for the fun of a number of imbeciles that do not understand that kids go to university for education and NOT TO BE STUFFED AROUND in the name of orientation! Please stop this senseless practice and start treating university residences as a block of flats where I pay for my child to stay during his/her studies and NOT as a play pen for a group of senior students to act out their childhood fantacies.

      Evan - 2012-01-23 21:26

      @Koos, indeed kids do go to University to study and there will probably always be an element that believes they should have some fun with first years, HOWEVER, this was most likely not the case. I was at Potch some years back and the fruit fest as it is known was a fun event organized for the students as a part of their social time. Nobody was forced to participate and nor fro that matter was anyone forced into the pool afterwards. The fact that this poor student drowned while sad was most likely accidental. A couple years back a student was killed when he fell against the corner of the desk in his room while drunk. It too was a waste but sadly this type of thing happens. In my final year at Potch a good friend was killed in an auto accident on her way home for the weekend. My point is that these things happen from time to time, one can ensure safety measures and be particularly cautious, which is not to say that people will never have accidents. The bottom line is that it is most likely that the students death had nothing whatsoever to do with any form on initiation.

      Koos - 2012-01-23 21:45

      @fargone I appreciate your comment. I am just of the humble opinion that times have changed from the days when you and I were at university, we live in a new era where we need to move on. The days when university was a place where first year students were "educated" into cultural system of how things were done are over. I honestly believe that in today's multi cultural open society the university has become an academic supermarket where knowledge is gained. The life skills that we were taught at university now belongs somewhere else. We need to move away from he old way of going to varsity, we are holding on to something that is dead. Let us find a new inovative way of living university life.

      Angry Bunny - 2012-01-23 22:50

      @koos, I studied at Potch and lived in a residence for all 4 the years I studied there. And I agree with you that there is NO PLACE any more for the old way of initiating 1st years. BUT with that said, I must inform you that orientation at Potch is just what the word leads you to believe it is. They ORIENTATE you in regards to: life on campus, how to speak to your lecturers, where your classes will be, and introduce you to other students. The whole point of hostel life is that you do not live in a flat but that you get a new group of friends in the hostel. Friend that can stand by you during your university years and help you to cope living a away from home... (there are many cheap flats that you can live in in potch if that's your thing and you can still take part in orientation if you want to...)

      Matthew Patrick - 2012-01-23 23:44

      I agree 100%! I was at RAU (UJ) and the res initiation did go a bit overboard. It should just be orientation and that's it. Parents pay bloody good money for varsity and the studies should be the main priority, not res activities. Being woken at 3 AM, when you have class at 7:30 to go do duckwalk exercises, push a bakkie or jump naked into a freezing pond on the coldest night in 10 years was pushing it a bit far.

      Christelle de Beer - 2012-01-24 00:28

      @Koos... i am a student and believe me!! if we had no fun during the year with studies we would go crazy.... it is draining... mentally... emotionally... physically.... and have you seen the arrogance of the first years?? do you have children currently studying? did you go to varsity? all im saying is don't judge... it is not your place..

      Koos - 2012-01-24 04:14

      @ Christelle. Valid questions that you posed to me. Q1: Do I have any kids at varsirty? Answer: Currently two with one going next year. Q2: Did I attend varsity: Answer: Yes, and I was in res and on the house comittee and I was on the SRC for three years. I think that qualifies me to voice an opinion. Fun is great but it should be the individual's choice to make friends and choose their own fun and not have another person's idea of fun forced upon you.

      Jolien - 2012-01-24 16:03

      NOBODY is forced to swim or do anything that they don't feel comfortable with!!! They are NOT stuffed around, and the whole point of orientation is to make the students part of a group and get the different people in a hostel to become a family. If you treat the university as a block of flats you might as well study at unisa from your own home!!! The fact that he died is very sad, but NO ONE except the boy self knows exactly what happened so I feel that all of us should stop blaming the university and the persons responsible for the first years. They go through a lot of trouble to make the first years feel part of the group and teach them the basic things about being at university. And NO ONE's personal rights are harmed in any way, every senior working with the first years have to go on a course to understand human rights and there are strict procedures against any senior who does not obey to the rules. And although the main reason kids go to university is for education, they also choose to go because of the feeling of belonging and being a part of a group, if orientation is completely taken away the shy child will no longer be accepted as part of a group and may end up being extremely lonely and may even suffer from depression which can lead to suicide. I am also a student at NWU and if it wasn't for the orientation I still wouldn't have had as many friends as I do now and I wouldn't have found all my hidden talents. I got out of orientation as a strong individual!!

  • bnnyoni - 2012-01-23 22:25


  • Ewald - 2012-01-23 23:30

    If I understand correctly Thabang was one of 76 students..if they were ALL in the pool at the same time then that was looking for trouble. Young people who can't swim will hide that due to embarrassment. And no roll call afterwards to ensure all were present? There should be an inquest, this smells of gross negligence to me.

  • Bongani Mcdonald Mogorosi - 2012-01-24 06:05

    I am a student at the NWU Potch campus, also a student leader. Nw, it came as a shock as I received a phne call on Sunday mrning informing me of the death of the deceased. Upon enquiry, I learned of the alleged facts tht the necessary pre-cautionary steps were put into plce 4 this swimming tradition. It appears tht there were, 14 Marshals, 6 emergency service personnel, 4 ER24 personnel, the university's health care personnel was also on board. Ok nw, gven the obovementioned, do u in ur ryt mind out of pure logic think tht 1 would drown in the presence of so much precautionary presence. The question of whether there were life guards was answered by the presence of 14 marshals etc. Nw wud it b jst nd reasonable 2 compare a swimming life guard 2 a marshal? Wat is the duty of a life guard, 2 save lives! Shud there be any1 2 b held accountable 4 ths young mans life, if theres no1, it shud b the life guards 4 omission. Bt q is, ws there really life guards or jst mere student marshals? Nw b4 proceeding any further with this enquiry, lets ask ths: were the students really consulted b4 hand whether they cn swim or nt, or was it jst an automatic presumption tht all post-matriculants ought 2 knw hw 2 swim? Were these students shown the deep nd shallow parts of the pool? Are the students intimidated by the seniors? Etc... The most important Q of ths whole incident wud b the question of hw the students were led 2 jump into the pool. I mean its common sense tht shud there be a crowd of ppl nd they decide 2 run, there will b kaos nd possibly an incident similar 2 tht of UJ. Nw, hw dd the students jump into the water? Dd they all jump in, in masses? Dd they jump in 1 by 1, dd they jump in a line? Which 1 is mre likey 2 lead 2 the drowning of a student? Nw it also became apparent tht the particular hostel went in the pool at around 16:30, the young man ws amongst them. The same hostel apparently left the pool area around the same time. The body of the young man was discovered later on tht afternoon at around 18:30 by another group. Nw ths tkes me bck 2 the Q of whether there ws really 'life-guards', paramedics, marshals or whoever! The death of Thabang comes as a shock! Y so many unanswered Q's, nd where there are answers, y isnt there logic? Could it b a question of negligence? Could it b human error? Could it hv been God's say? We trust tht the police investigation will reveal the truth as it is, we hpe to rely on the SAPS to do their job at ths 1. Or shud we hire 'Medical detectives'?

      Jolien - 2012-01-24 16:31

      I just want to say that NO ONE should be blamed for Thabang's death! I am also a student at NWU and I have medical problems that restrained me from participating in all the activities, HOWEVER: I told my HK about my problem and they were completely understanding!! They didn't force me or anyone else with physical/mental conditions to participate in anything we didn't feel comfortable with - they even drove me by car to the places that was to far for me to handle (even on campus). It is not the HK's responsibility to ask every single first year if they can swim or if there is anything else that they can't do, it is every persons own responsibility to speak your mind and say if you don't feel comfortable with doing something. NO ONE will pressure you in any way, you even have a HK working especially with the first years to ensure their well-being. I think every one should stop speculating and leave that to the SAPS. And badmouthing the university won't help either!!!!!!

  • Drageo - 2012-01-24 10:18

    Im a current student at the Potch campus of the NorthWest Uni. Im convinced there was a good deal of negligence involved. I was among the first to know about the drowning (I live with one of the group of students who found the body),and it was evidently clear that his residence and the orientation officials hadnt the foggiest idea that he was gone until he was reported dead. The campus hides behind the name of 'orientation', but it is in fact as many suspect it to be: initiation. Those that do not partake in the endless array of dangerous, and often spiritually detrimental, activities are often intimidated into doing it,or otherwise excluded from the student life in a cold and demeaning way. The student council is a body that does very little on an academic ground and much to dictate the culture of students on campus.This culture is bred especially in those living in residences on campus and is one of drunkenness and immorality. The spirit of recklessness, I believe, is a result of this culture. Much evil that is done here goes unheard, and somebody somewhere does a great job of covering it up. All aside, I do not wish to damage the standing of the University, for its lecturers and the academic training one receives here is of paramount quality. However, to parents aspiring to send their children here, I advise that you find them private accommodation and that they stay away from the campus culture if their future careers and spiritual wellbeing is any way important to them.

      Riaan - 2012-01-24 12:28

      Phillip, it seems you are very well informed and want us to know it. I will accept that you may be living with one of the three individuals that made the original discovery. Taking into account these references, you then immediately jump onto the bandwagon regarding orientation vs initiation. When you make these wildly irresponsible and reckless accustions, why don't you also explain to the public exactly what happened during the whole fruit festival and following pool visit. Especially the "evil that is done". Seeing as jumping in a pool to rinse of after a fruit festival is a very evil initiation procedures. I'm sure that there are lots of other people out there, just as curious as me to hear all the juicy details. Just a word of caution, quite a variety of independant, professional and educated adults were there during the whole process. Shouldn't be too difficult to cross check your firsthand knowledge...

      Wilmari Potgieter - 2012-01-24 15:17

      i strongly disagree, campus culture is among one of the most important in bonding students together, i am a 3rd year student in potchefstroom and i was upset that ORIENTATION is not initiation due to the quality of people that walk out of initiation better and stronger, with more discipline, respect and self worth over time compared to the quality of people today, standards are being lowered due to human rights(which is never neglected in the campus hostels) and disrespect, laziness, alcohol and drug abuse are on the rise due to the lack of discipline which was firmly implemented earlier. campus student that go to hostels require much higher grades and skills and are under much greater discipline that students staying in town accommodation, you have to earn your right to have the honor of being in a hostel so remarks about HC's and hostel students as well orientation being about drunkenness are incorrect and just an opinion. compared to town students, town students definitely experience the party craze more. i will agree that there was a lack in making sure that everyone was safe during the swimming pool incident but we as first years were never forced to do anything against your will, there are showers to clean up and if you could not swim, they would have understood with sympathy, HC's protect the first years from students who could cause emotional or physical damage and i strongly admire the fact that they look after the students with such care. i am very sorry for the parents of the deceased and my prayers are with them.

      Jolien - 2012-01-24 16:53

      I just want to ask you one thing: Are you, or were you ever in a campus hostel? If not, you have NO right to say anything about the orientation of first years in campus hostels. It is NOT a form of initiation and NO ONE is forced to do anything!!!! And I also feel that you should get your facts straight if you think that campus residents have a culture of drunkenness and immorality - yes, I agree that there are students who live such a lifestyle but it is NOT the norm and can also happen off campus. In fact: to be accepted into a campus hostel your grades have to be above 70% and there are rules against alcohol. And about your comment “I advise that you find them private accommodation and that they stay away from the campus culture if their future careers and spiritual wellbeing is any way important to them.”: you should rather go to UNISA and stay at home!! And by the way: NO university can be held liable for your own spiritual wellbeing or immorality - it is your own choice if you want to participate in devious activities, and such behaviours are already learned at home...

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