Tell the truth: Protesters demand accountability for Parktown Boys death

2020-01-21 11:57

Those arriving at Parktown Boys’ High School on Tuesday morning were met with two different moods and emotions.

One side of the entrance into the school was filled with flowers in remembrance of 13-year-old Enock Mpianzi who drowned last week while on the other side some enraged residents staged a silent protest with placards calling for justice for the teenager who died last Wednesday while on a school trip in the North West.

“Justice for Enock,” “Tell the truth,” “We will not forget Enock” read some of the placards.

Those who showed up on Tuesday morning said the “silent protest” was “so the truth about what happened to Enock can be told and for those who are responsible to be held accountable”.

Vanita Daniels (41) was among the first to arrive at the school. Although she has no children she said:

“What happened to Enock should concern everyone. Not just parents. It should be concerning to us just as ordinary citizens.

“These children are supposed to be our future leaders but they are being killed at schools and camps and others are left traumatised. This is unacceptable.”

She added: “This silent protest is to show that we feel very deeply about what happened. It is to send a message to say that we want justice.”

Daniels could not hold back her frustration as she spoke about the school: “It is always in the news for all the wrong reasons.

“Everybody concerned – the school, those in charge at the camp site and the department of education –should be held accountable, especially since this is a school that has constantly been in the news for all the wrong reasons,” she said.

“Why are they still being allowed to carry on as if it is business as usual?”

Like Daniel, another protester Natalie Ridgard said: “The school needs to do better. There is a culture of toxicity in boys’ schools in South Africa, especially former model C schools.

Parktown Boys
From Left: Vanita Daniels, Karima Brown and Mikhail Brown. Picture: Palesa Dlamini

“Also this initiation issue... I don’t think that those things have been dealt with.”

In 2018, abuse at the school came to light after a former assistant water polo coach Collan Rex was caught on a surveillance camera fondling a 15-year-old pupil’s genitals in the common room of the hostel in November 2016.

Rex was later found guilty of 144 counts of sexual assault and 12 counts of common assault in September that year.

Daniels told City Press that Tuesday’s demonstration would not be the last.

“I am going to be here every day at 7am until we are given answers – answers that go beyond the statement released by the school,” she said.

“The principal and the teachers who were at the camp with the pupils should have been suspended, pending the investigation that they keep throwing in our faces.”

In a statement on Friday, the school explained that the purpose of the camp: “The camp is aimed at introducing new Parktonians to each other and creating an environment which focuses on team work and the achieving of common goals through various activities offered at the camp.”

On Saturday the school released another statement saying it would not engage further on the incident.

“At this time, under the guidance of both SA Police Service and the Gauteng department of education, we are not in a position to further engage nor discuss the details of the ongoing investigation or events leading up to the accident,” it said.

Holding up a placard that read: “Tell us the truth! #JusticeForEnock,” former Parktown Boys’ High School pupil Kago Saul (19) told City Press that what happened to Enock was “a trigger” for him.

“Having attended Parktown Boys High and having lost a brother in a drowning incident, this has triggered me,” he said.

“I feel like this was an avoidable incident that happened because of gross negligence. It is saddening that this happened.”

Saul told City Press that “disruption is needed” for answers around Enock’s death to be provided.

“The teachers who were at the camp, the camp counsellors and the owners of the lodge need to be held responsible,” he said.

Ridgard said that like other protesters, she did not have children at the school. “I am here to stand in solidarity with the family and with the boys at the school because we need to speak out,” she said.

“The family just needs to know that there are people in this country who care deeply about what happened to their child and who also want answers for them.”

Enock’s uncle Sebastian Kodiemoka said the family appreciated support from the country.

Parktown Boys
Kago Saul and Natalie Ridgard. Picture: Palesa Dlamini

“We appreciate what the community and the country at large are doing. The support means a great deal to us because we as a family see it as South Africa standing in solidarity with us,” he told City Press.

“We feel that the country has been with us and we appreciate knowing that we are not on our own.”

Enock’s body was recovered from the Crocodile River on Friday morning after a makeshift raft he and other boys were on overturned on Wednesday.

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February 23 2020