School vs lodge vs schoolboy testimony: three versions of rafting tragedy

24 January 2020 - 06:04 By Unathi Nkanjeni
Enock Mpianzi died while at a school orientation camp in Brits, North West.
Enock Mpianzi died while at a school orientation camp in Brits, North West.
Image: @CuedaBeat_bhr via Twitter

The investigation around the death of Parktown Boys' High School pupil Enock Mpianzi is still under way.

The 13-year-old drowned during a river rafting exercise at a grade 8 orientation camp on Wednesday last week.

His body was found in the Crocodile River at the Nyati Bush and River Break lodge in Brits, North West on January 17.

Here are three versions of what allegedly transpired — according to the school, the lodge and one of the pupils who last saw Mpianzi.

Parktown Boys' High School

On January 17, Parktown Boys' High School issued a statement, outlining its version of what happened at the camp where Mpianzi died.

The school said it discovered that Mpianzi was missing on Thursday morning during a roll call.  

According to the school, internal emergency procedures were immediately conducted by camp managers, staff and members of the community.

“The headmaster contacted the father to alert him to staff concerns.

“At 3:20pm the headmaster again contacted the father to confirm that all efforts to locate Enoch had failed and shortly thereafter transport was arranged to take the family to the venue. Two trained counsellors from the school accompanied the family.” 

The school said it was told about Mpianzi's death by SAPS search and rescue personnel at 11am on Friday.

Schoolboy's testimony

On Wednesday morning, a boy, who cannot be named to protect his identity, gave a chilling version of his side of the story on Radio 702.

To protect the identity of the pupil and to avoid traumatising him again, the interview was voiced by the station.

The boy, who said he was in Mpianzi's raft activity group, said he told facilitators about Mpianzi struggling in the water, but was ignored.

He said on several occasions he tried to alert Parktown Boys’ High teachers that Mpianzi had been swept away when their makeshift raft overturned in the river.

He said there was no roll call done before stepping on the bus to go to the orientation camp. He said that when Mpianzi’s name was called during the roll call at the lodge's hall, another friend had raised his hand, but the person taking the roll call moved to the next name.

He said the person told him that there were groups with more headcount and Enoch might be with another group.

The boy said when he and his friend tried approaching a camp facilitator late on Wednesday to tell him that Mpianzi was missing, the “facilitator was rude and dismissed us”.

The boy said his story was only listened to late on Thursday, when he and his friend were taken into a separate venue and interviewed by the police.

He said when they left the lodge, the headmaster told them not to speak to anyone about what had happened.

Nyati Bush and River Lodge

The lodge confirmed the boy's story that there was no roll call done by Parktown Boys' High School before the grade 8 pupils departed for the camp.

The lodge's legal representative, Daniel Eloff, said that caused confusion when some pupils were unaccounted for.

However, he said at no stage did the facilitators notice that any of the group members had been swept away.

Eloff said it was only after a roll call by the school staff on Wednesday evening that they noticed that there were eight pupils who were unaccounted for and there was “uncertainty among the school staff as to whether the eight absent pupils were actually attending the camp”.

He said after the school contacted the parents of the eight unaccounted-for pupils, it became apparent late on Thursday morning that Mpianzi was missing.