Probe into NWU student's drowning

2012-02-01 19:00

Johannesburg - Higer Education Minister Blade Nzimande has announced an independent investigation into the drowning of 19-year-old Thabang Makhoang at the Potchefstroom Campus of the University of the North West.

In a media statement, Nzimande said that although he had read “the university’s statement and explanation of what occurred during the 'fruit festival’”, he was “deeply concerned at the description of the organised event”.

According to the university, Thabang, a first-year-engineering student, drowned in the university’s swimming pool after a fruit festival event on the introduction and orientation programme.

First years are supposed to “rub” fruit on each other and then take a swim in the swimming pool.

Thabang drowned unnoticed among 77 of his residence peers, with 47 safety staff allegedly present.

He was only discovered two hours later, after another two residences had used the pool.

Nzimande said that “the description of the event and what had actually taken place is remarkably similar to former 'initiation ceremonies' which were often undignified, inhumane and discriminatory”.

He said that the investigation would also assess the organisation and implementation of the orientation programme at the university.

On Sunday, City Press reported that Thabang did not know how to swim and that he had only been warned in Afrikaans that he did not need to participate in the swimming event.

The first-year engineering student was an example to many students in the poor community of Tswelelang, Wolmaransstad, because he achieved 98% for maths and was the first pupil in the school ever to score an A for physical science.

In the year after he had completed his matric, Thabang was asked by his school to teach maths after it lost one of its teacher to a rehabilitation centre.

The matric group’s marks improved significantly in that year.

  • Mona - 2012-02-02 07:36

    I find it hard to believe that no one saw him drowning

  • joanne.wroblewski - 2012-02-02 10:04

    I studied at the North West University in Potch and took part in the same "fruit festival". Its a food fight with a bunch of water melons and after wards everyone gets some free time to cool off in the pool. Its not cruel and no one gets physically hurt during the fruit festival. Its usually a lot of fun. I have also spent many hours in that pool, which is big and has a very deep side on one end. Although its hard to think why no one would see him drowning, or why he would swim to the deep side if he knew he was a good swimmer, but even then, if he would have shouted for help I am sure someone would have heard him? So this really makes no sense at all why he would have drowned, unless he had an underlying condition like epilepsy and had an attach while in the water?

  • Dustin - 2012-02-02 10:14

    This is very very sad, I agree with the minister to launch an investigation on how this young man could have drowned without anybody noticing. Also being an ex-student of North-West University I can say that the fruit festival is nothing but good fun, nobody is forced to do anything they are not comfortable with its not an initiation ritual, just a chance for all first years to get together, get to know each other and have fun. Like most NWU organised events for first years. Terrible that something like this happened, heartfelt regret that such a promising bright young man is no longer with us. Condolences to his family and friends...

  • Sharon - 2012-02-02 10:22

    Fruit festivals are meant to be great fun! I remember having one at school. The pool was not maintained and green and really disgusting, but that did not stop us - we all landed up in it - slipping and sliding becaude the bottom was covered with slime. It was the best day ever! I am truly sad that Thabang died, but there was no initiation there.

  • Louise - 2012-02-02 10:32

    This is SHOCKING! Sorry university, you must be REALLY naive to believe your own press release. AND "rub fruit on each other and take a swim in the swimming pool" - GROW UP! SCRAP childish initiation ceremonies - school is OVER - use the time and energy to do community work and once this is done, the students can celebrate their achievement by being given a mature party. Universities are breeding immaturity. (I think OFS has scrapped so-called initiation.)

      Annemarie Marx - 2014-01-28 03:42

      really , most likley you have never been young and had fun in your life ,so get over yourself

  • angelique.venter - 2012-02-02 11:38

    North-West University not University of the North West

  • Mma-Batho - 2012-02-03 17:21

    it just breaks my heart to think that now a person with such a promising future is no longer. someone should take responsebility,the truth must be told about this issue we are talking about someone's life here

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