The Nyati Bush and Riverbreak Lodge has broken its silence by way of a statement on the death of 13-year-old Enock Mpianzi at an orientation camp for Parktown Boys High School Grade 8 learners on 15 January.
Mpianzi drowned during a river activity at the lodge on Wednesday, but the school and lodge claim they did not discover he was missing until the following day. His body was discovered on Friday.
The statement seems to attribute the lack of safety during the exercise to “excited and competitive” children who moved into the deep end of the river despite instructions not to.
“The children participating in the activity were excited and competitive. The groups were eager to finish first and started to overtake other groups in the water. That created a dangerous situation as groups – despite clear instructions to the contrary – tended to move into the deep end of the river where the current was stronger than in the shallow water,” the statement says.
The statement contradicts the eye witness account of another Grade 8 learner who was on the camp, which was read out on 702 earlier on Wednesday. He said he had seen the river sweep Mpianzi away, had called for help to no avail, and had mentioned his disappearance at a roll call shortly after the exercise, with facilitators allegedly dismissing his concerns rather than taking action.
The lodge says both facilitators and school staff were present at the activity. It says its employees had to help three groups of children out of the river but didn’t know a child had gone missing until roll call on Wednesday evening, at which it was established that eight children did not respond to their name being called out.
“After the school contacted the parents of the eight unaccounted learners it became apparent on late Thursday morning that Enoch Mpianzi was missing. Internal standard emergency procedures were immediately instituted by the camp management, staff and members of the community. The SAPS Emergency Services were also contacted to assist with the search and rescue efforts,” the lodge’s statement read.
The lodge also claims that the program was adjusted due to the school’s learners arriving three hours late.
“The scheduled and agreed program had to be adjusted to allow for the time lost due to the school busses’ late arrival.”
Attempts by The Citizen on Tuesday to contact the lodge’s director Anton Knoetze did not bear fruit. He did, however, tell EWN last week that Mpianzi’s death should be considered an unfortunate accident, for which no one was to blame.
(Compiled by Daniel Friedman. Background reporting, Kaunda Selisho)