Parktown Boys' High tragedy: Gauteng Education Department launches own investigation

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Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi. (Sandile Ndlovu/Gallo)
Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi. (Sandile Ndlovu/Gallo)

The Gauteng Education Department has instituted an independent investigation into the death of a 13-year-old pupil from Parktown Boys' High at an orientation camp near Brits in North West.

Enock Mpianzi's body was found on Friday after he went missing during a "water activity" at the camp. He was last seen on Wednesday when a makeshift raft he and other boys were on, overturned on the Crocodile River, News24 reported earlier.

The team conducting the investigation is expected to establish who is responsible for the negligence, Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said on Friday afternoon.

The MEC briefed the media at the school, saying the turn of events, as reported to him, were "difficult to explain" at this point.

He said the school's principal indicated to them that the incident happened on Wednesday, but the department was only notified late Thursday.

Lesufi said he was yet to apply his mind to a provisional report provided to him by the school, explaining the events from the time the pupils were at the activity, to when it was realised one of them was missing, and until the time it was reported.

"I don't doubt that it was a deliberate act of some sort. What is concerning, is the timelines. In the absence of discussions, it would be very difficult to know whether those timelines are justified," Lesufi said.

Priority 'was to find the boy'

Police were reportedly only alerted on Thursday, hours after the boy went missing.

Lesufi said the team would be looking into the timelines and other factors.

Lesufi stressed that the priority had been to find the missing boy, and that the department had not had the opportunity to question the school, camp organisers and the owners of the camp lodge.

"I am not aware or I was not briefed on whether the people who assisted the children or the children themselves had life jackets. That information was not provided to me, as of now."

Parents have alleged that the children were under the care of matric boys at the camp. Lesufi, however, said about 10 teachers and other support staff were also present.

The exercise was a specialised one and was not conducted by the school teachers, he added.

"We needed to satisfy [ourselves] whether there were other circumstances that led to the late notification."

Kind boy

The MEC said when he arrived at the scene while the search was underway for the boy, he requested that the last people to work with the pupils take him through the same exercise so that he could understand what they were doing.

The water activity at the camp was a simulation as if the pupils were being dropped off from an aircraft and had to cross a river with an "injured" person. They then had to build rafts and use them to cross the river, he added.

Following the activity, no one was aware that a pupil was missing and only when a headcount was done, they realised that Mpianzi was missing.

About 200 kids were reportedly at the camp, which has since been cancelled.

While parents have criticised the school for not informing them about the incident, Lesufi says there were reasons to the non-communication by the school as the priority was to find the child first.

Mpianzi has been described as a kind boy who aspired to become a lawyer. The family is from northern Democratic Republic of Congo, said Lesufi.

"The day before the trip, when the mother went to wake him up, he said to the mother: 'I could not sleep because I am looking forward to the trip'," Lesufi said he was told.

The department has vowed to have the report compiled and released as soon as possible.

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