Kulani Mathebula: Saying goodbye to a caring friend with a love of photography and his mom

2019-03-15 16:05
Kulani Mathebula. (Sesona Ngqakamba,  News24)

Kulani Mathebula. (Sesona Ngqakamba, News24)

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"An eye for an eye makes all of us blind and there is no need [for] revenge."

These were the words of Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi to a packed hall in Mondeor, south of Johannesburg, on Friday.

Scores of teachers, parents, pupils and community members filled the Mondeor High School hall in memory of slain Grade 11 pupil Kulani Mathebula.

His family couldn't hold back the tears as they walked into the hall. 

Posters reading "#Justice4 Kulani", "Are we safe?", "Justice 4 SA Schools" were placed throughout the hall by Mathebula's schoolmates. 

Mathebula, 19, was on his way to school at around 07:00 on Wednesday when he was attacked by three suspects believed to be pupils from a nearby school. He died on the scene after he was stabbed three times in the chest. The three have since been arrested.

READ: 'I want my son' - mother of pupil who was stabbed to death while walking to school

Lesufi urged pupils of Mondeor not to turn to violence to resolve any anger they may have.

"Please, please let us not resolve our differences through violence, I am begging you, especially the friends (of Mathebula)," said Lesufi.

The MEC said it was saddening that the congregation was gathered in the school hall over a death.

"Here we are again, instead of bidding a learner farewell because that learner is going to university, I am bidding a learner farewell because he is going to a grave.

"Here we are gathered with learners, instead of advising them about careers and opportunities, I am advising them on how to accept and tolerate death," said Lesufi.

He said pupils who commit such crimes ceased to be pupils and needed to be given other names.

It was an emotional morning as Mathebula's friends and family took to the stage one by one and shared anecdotes, personal stories and jokes about the teen. Mathebula was described as a humble and friendly person who also was very fond of his mother, Dumi Chauke.

Family disappointed with forensics services

His uncle, Mikhangelo Chauke, who lived with Mathebula, said the youngster was an exceptional cook who also had a passion for art. 

"Kulani also had a passion for photography. He used to take pictures of his mom and me," said Mikhangelo. 

Mikhangelo, who was also one of the first to arrive at the scene, said he cried hysterically when he heard that Mathebula could not be resuscitated by paramedics. 

He said when paramedics confirmed that Mathebula was dead, he shouted: "Kulani, hang in there." 

"I knew he was unconscious but I thought if he could hear me, it would strengthen his will to fight because I am here," Mikhangelo said. 

He thanked the school, department and the community for all the support they had given to the family since Wednesday. 

He added that the family was, however, disappointed that it took forensic services almost four hours to get to the scene while his nephew's body was lying where he'd died. 

Mikhangelo said he did not want any other parent to experience what the family was going through and was therefore calling on the community to stand together in fighting crime in schools.

Amukelani Mthembi, one of Mathebula's best friends, said he would never forget him. He recalled how Mathebula helped him work on his self-esteem when he was in Grade 9.

Mthembi said when Mathebula saw that he was shy he approached him and tried to make him feel comfortable among his peers.

Mthembi shared anecdotes about himself and Mathebula, describing how one day he was approached by Mathebula who asked him: "Amu, why don't you ever ever speak to 'nca' ladies?"

The crowd burst into laughter.

Preventing further violence

Mondeor High School principal Vangelia Nicolaou, who was with Mthembu as he drew his last breath, said her team, along with parents, would meet with officials from the school the suspects attend to set up an action plan to ensure that an incident like this would never happen again.

"We are going to love unconditionally, there are going to be no barriers, we are going to forgive and move forward in kindness, care and thought. That way, Kulani would have not died in vain," said an emotional Nicolaou.

She said the school would also take a stand and move forward without anger.

"If we move forward in anger, if we threaten, if we show revenge, the ugliness, the poison and evil will continue and there will be no hope for our society or for our country," Nicolaou added.

The school will also be having a prayer walk on Saturday in memory of Mathebula.

His funeral will take place in Malamulele, Limpopo, on Sunday.

Read more on:    johannesburg  |  education  |  crime
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