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By Kekeletso Nakeli

Columnist


The high price of a code of silence

While Inxeba The Wound is told from an African perspective, Enock Mpianzi’s story stands toe-to-toe with the atrocities of a brotherhood with a bourgeois accent.


With tears streaming down their faces, the family of Enock Mpianzi will lay their son to rest at the weekend. A young man, at the edge of his tomorrows, lost his life due to alleged negligence.

And what has come out since the investigations into his death started, is the prevalence of a code of silence in a school community that refuses to break rank and speak their truth.

There can never be any denying the greatness of Parktown Boys’ High. The class of 2019 attained a 98.1% pass rate, with 94% qualifying for tertiary education – sheer brilliance! But in the wake of a loss of life, the code remained with only a few breaking it anonymously.

In 2018, parents were compelled to approach the department of education to intervene amid allegations of sexual misconduct, racism, corporal punishment and initiation methods that brought children to tears – but boys do not cry …

At the time, it was reported that the practices include “sexually predatory behaviour” by senior pupils against juniors, a culture of assault and sexual assault under the guise of “initiation practices” and “profoundly shocking” utterances made by teachers in the presence of pupils.

At the memorial service held at the school for Mpianzi, MEC for education Panyaza Lesufi reiterated to pupils who knew more but felt bound by a code of silence that his door would be open. Lesufi encouraged the boys to speak out and not be barred by a “code of conduct that says boys are boys, and boys are men and therefore they must not cry”.

“I urge you, where you see wrong, say it. I will protect you.”

This reminds me of Inxeba, the initiation ceremonies held in mountains where boys could never detail their experiences. This is the “rite of passage” that boys undergo to separate men from boys … but this is also where lives are lost and scars never heal.

This is the Parktown Boys’ of villages scattered across the country.

While Inxeba The Wound is a surprising story told from an African perspective, Enock Mpianzi’s story stands toe-to-toe with the atrocities of a brotherhood with a bourgeois accent.

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