A boy who was seated next to 13-year-old Parktown Boys’ High School pupil Enoch Mpianzi while they were en route to their Grade 8 orientation camp was the first to raise the alarm that he was missing after the boys had returned from an activity, his family said.
This is in contrast to earlier reports that he was found to be missing during roll-call on Thursday morning.
Mpianzi was last seen on Wednesday when a makeshift raft he and other boys were on overturned on the Crocodile River while they were attending the camp at Nyati Bush and Riverbreak near Brits in North West.
News24 previously reported that the Grade 8 group arrived at the lodge on Wednesday and took part in a water activity that involved building their own rafts, according to North West police spokesperson Colonel Adele Myburgh.
The pupils were divided into groups of between five and six and took to the water on their self-built rafts. Some boys, among them Enoch, fell from their raft and scrambled to get back on to it.
Speaking to News24 on Friday evening, Mpianzi’s uncle, Sebastian Kodie Motha, said the boy was the first to notice that Enoch was missing from the group and alerted teachers.
Enoch was the only pupil from his primary school who enlisted at Parktown Boys, so he was not known to his fellow learners. Motha said the family was told that the boy said that Enoch was with the rest of the group earlier in the day and was seated next to him on the bus. He was also present at lunch at the lodge on Wednesday.
“That boy is the one who released the first alert and I am sure from that alert the principal paid attention and contacted the father,” he said.
The uncle said Mpianzi’s father, Itamba Guy, received a call from Malcolm Williams, the school’s headmaster, at around 10:00 on Thursday. The surprise call was to enquire whether Enoch had indeed taken part in the camp.
Motha said Guy told Williams he himself dropped Enoch off at the school [on Wednesday] and assisted him in loading his luggage in the trailer.
The principal, who had made the call, according to the uncle, then said he would call him again as there seemed to be “a problem”.
Guy received another frantic call at around 16:00 on the same day informing him that his son had gone missing from the camp.
The family, including Mpianzi’s parents, then rushed to the school from where they were transported to the campsite.
‘I thought maybe he was tired and blocked somewhere’
Upon arriving at the campsite, Motha said they were informed that there had been two activities on the first day [Wednesday].
One of the activities was in the bush and the other in the river, which flows to a nearby dam.
Motha said they assisted search-and-rescue team on Thursday evening until the search was called off because it had become dark.
On Friday morning, the search continued along the river banks.
“I was even taken to the river, calling the name of the child because I thought maybe he was tired and blocked somewhere,” the visibly heartbroken uncle said.
However, Enoch’s body was found in nearby bushes on Friday morning.
While the family said they didn’t want to point any fingers, they believed that the school had not “properly managed” the camp.
Motha said it was concerning that the pupils were sent to do activities on their first day of arriving at the camp because they were not familiar with one another and were probably still not used to the teachers.
Around 200 boys had participated in the camp, Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said.
“When I asked yesterday [Thursday] how they managed the children, as the staff, we were told the staff of the guest house was involved. Because I think someone could have seen what happened [when the boy was drowning].”
Motha said no one had an idea where to start looking for the boy, adding that the situation at the camp was very “risky”.
He has suggested that camps of such a nature be conducted once pupils have formed friendships among themselves and were also comfortable with the teachers.
“We are putting an input for those organising such activities that maybe it would be better to wait for the second term when the children [will have] established friendships so that when they go and come, they can give a proper [account of whose missing],” Motha said.