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'It’s enough - we can’t cope': Lesufi at memorial for Parktown pupil

Enoch Mpianzi was remembered at a memorial service at Parktown Boys' High in Johannesburg on January 28 2020. The 13-year-old grade 8 pupil drowned during an orientation camp at the Nyati Bush and Riverbreak Lodge in Brits, North West. His body was found in the Crocodile River nearly two days after he went missing.

It is becoming the norm to issue death certificates instead of matric certificates, said Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi on Tuesday at the memorial of Enoch Mpianzi.

“How difficult it was that ... when I met you, you were in a body bag."

These were the words of Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi on Tuesday at a memorial service for Parktown Boys' High School pupil Enoch Mpianzi.

The 13-year-old boy died almost two weeks ago on his first day of school at an orientation camp in Brits, in the North West, held for grade 8 pupils. He was allegedly swept away by a strong current during a water activity. His body was discovered two days later.

"How difficult it was that we never interacted - but when we did, it was not nice,” Lesufi told mourners.

The service was attended by Mpianzi’s former teachers from Brixton Primary School, where he completed grade 7 in 2019. A few of his former classmates and current pupils attended the service.

Mpianzi’s family took their place in front at the school hall. His mother Anto bowed her head, sorrow etched on her face.

Lesufi said since the start of the school year two weeks ago, he has visited families of grieving pupils. Some had died at school, others had died on their way to school. He said he was praying for the deaths to stop.

“It’s enough. It’s difficult. We can’t cope,” he said, adding it was becoming the norm to issue death certificates instead of matric certificates.

Lesufi last week announced the suspension of Parktown Boys' High principal Malcolm Williams. He also warned that teachers involved in the outing could be charged individually - based on an investigation into whether they were guilty of negligence.

All of the district officials who handled the application of the school's visit will receive letters of suspension.

Mpianzi allegedly disappeared in the water hours after the boys arrived at the camp, but it was only officially noted that he was missing the next day. His body was found in the Crocodile River almost 48 hours after he went missing.

Lesufi expressed his pain at having suspended Williams, saying the decision was not taken lightly. He said Williams had co-operated with the department since the beginning of their search for Mpianzi, but unfortunately someone had to account for the death.

“We cannot say to the parents of Enoch that we do not have answers. We cannot say that we don’t know what happened,” he said.

Lesufi said with all the negative publicity that the school had endured over the years, including a sexual assault scandal involving a waterpolo teacher, he had received numerous calls to shut it down.

This would not happen, he said, adding that the school remained a good one and among the best.

"Yes, there are mistakes and limitations and challenges - but we will deal with those, like we have done so before."

He thanked the Mpianzi family, who he said continued to show love, despite their pain.

"I know this is difficult, but nevertheless I will say it: let us release Enoch. Let us release him back to our creator. To Enoch: go well, my son. Go well, my learner."

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