Stabbed Mondeor High School pupil described as 'an angel who didn't deserve to die'
Mother grieves knife death of only son, 19
As a mother mourned the death of her only child at a memorial service in Johannesburg on Friday, the three teenagers accused of stabbing him to death appeared in court just a few kilometres away.
The dead teen, Kulani Mathebula, 19, a pupil at Mondeor High School, will be buried in Limpopo today after being attacked in a park as he walked to school on Wednesday - apparently just for the theft of his cellphone, police said.
The fatal mugging is the latest of a series of attacks and fights in which pupils have been killed or injured by fellow teenagers.
The three suspects in Mathebula's death - two 15-year-olds and a 13-year-old - were arrested in Soweto and Naturena, south of Johannesburg, the day after the attack.
Rakesh Devhalall was the last person to see the grade 11 pupil alive. He stopped and reversed his car after seeing someone lying face-down next to the side of the road.
Devhalall, speaking at the memorial service in the school hall at Mondeor, said he regrets not knowing first aid as he believes this could have saved the teen's life.
"I didn't know what to do. I feel if I knew some first aid, we would not be in this hall today, mourning. I believe I could have saved him," he said.
"I thought he was suffering from seizures as he was face down on the grass. I only noticed that he was bleeding when my 10-year-old told me my clothes had blood on. I wanted to save him," said Devhalall.
At the service, Mathebula's mother, Dumi Chauke, sat quietly at the front of the hall surrounded by family members, as tributes were paid to her child.
She remained behind as mourners left the hall, exchanging hugs with her son's fellow pupils as they filed past.
Mikhongelo Chauke, Mathebula's uncle, said after the service that Dumi had called him at about 8am after she learnt of the attack.
"I found him lying on the ground as paramedics were trying to resuscitate him. They had been trying for 45 minutes."
Even after Mathebula was confirmed dead, Mikhongelo begged them to try one more time.
"I told them to try resuscitate him. But he was gone. I cried hysterically, I could not hold my tears."
His uncle said Mathebula had been keen on music and arts. "He was an innocent child who was never involved in any fights with anyone."
Grade 8 pupil Ayanda Vilakazi remembered Mathebula as an "angel who was calm, who didn't deserve to die like this".
University of the Free State education professor Corene de Wet said the struggle to survive was a feature of South African society, and there was also a lack of respect.
"Communities as a whole should become involved. Pupils are often attacked on their way to and from school, thus outside the realm of the education department," said De Wet.
Some pupils carried weapons to school to intimidate or attack fellow pupils and teachers, or merely to show their power.
"Others may feel unsafe and carry the weapons to protect or defend themselves," she said.
Part of the motivation for youth violence was an adolescent desire to "belong".
"Perpetrators may try to protect their turf, or the attacks may even be part of an initiation ritual into a specific gang," De Wet said.
Mathebula's alleged attackers were caught on CCTV footage.
On Friday, posters and placards displayed in and outside the school hall called for justice.
Gauteng provincial education MEC Panyaza Lesufi cautioned pupils not to seek revenge.
"Instead of bidding a learner farewell to go to university, we are bidding him farewell as he's going to the grave. Instead of advising pupils about their careers and opportunities, I am advising them on how to accept another death," said Lesufi.
Gauteng police spokesperson Capt Kay Makhubela said the suspects, who were being charged with murder and robbery, had been released into their parents' custody. They will appear in court again tomorrow.
The day after Mathebula's death, a 13-year-old girl was found stabbed in the abdomen in the toilets of a school in Tlhabane, near Rustenburg. She was taken to hospital, and police said no arrests had been made.
SCHOOL ATTACKS TIMELINE February 26 2019: A 13-year-old girl at Mateane Primary School in the North West is stabbed to death at the school. A fellow pupil is arrested.
February 23 2019: Thoriso Themane, 28, is stabbed and beaten to death in Polokwane. Seven suspects, all pupils at Capricorn High School, have been arrested.
February 14 2019: A 19-year-old grade 10 pupil is stabbed to death at Metsimaphodi Secondary School in Dewetsdorp in the Free State. A 21-year old grade 11 pupil is arrested.
February 11 2019: A 17-year-old grade 9 pupil is repeatedly stabbed in what appears to be a revenge attack at Trenance Park Secondary School in Verulam in KwaZulu-Natal. The pupil is stabbed in the chest, arm and ribs but survives.
February 11 2019: Two pupils are stabbed at Lentegeur High School in CapeTown — one in the leg, the other in the neck. Both survive.
January 17 2019: A 15-year-old is stabbed to death during a sports day at Mpekweni School in Peddie in the Eastern Cape. A 16-year-old schoolmate i sarrested.
November 26 2018: A teenage boy is stabbed to death after finishing his matric exam paper in Ladysmith in KwaZulu-Natal. A fellow pupil is arrested for the incident, which happened near the school.
November 22 2018: A grade 1 pupil is stabbed to death at Dikeledi MakapanPrimary School in Makapanstad in the North West. A 17-year-old boy from another school is arrested.
November 6 2018: A 19-year-old grade 11 pupil at KP Toto High School in Gamopedi, Northern Cape, is stabbed to death, allegedly by her ex, on her way to school. A 25-year-old man is arrested.
October 17 2018: A grade 9 pupil is stabbed to death by a fellow pupil during break at Sinako Secondary School in Khayelitsha, Cape Town.
October 17 2018: A grade 8 pupil at Stellenzicht Secondary School in Stellenbosch in the Western Cape is stabbed to death on the school grounds during break time.
September 30 2018: A 24-year-old teacher is stabbed to death at Ramotshere Secondary School in Zeerust in the NorthWest. A 17-year-old pupil is charged with the murder.
September 27 2018: A grade 8 pupil at Richmond High School in the Northern Cape is stabbed to death while attending catch-up classes. A 15-year-old pupil is arrested.
September 14 2018: An 18-year-old pupil is stabbed to death in class at Nathaniel Pamla Secondary School outside Peddie in the Eastern Cape. An 18-year-old fellow pupil is arrested.
August 24 2018: An 18-year-old is arrested after allegedly stabbing to death a fellow pupil at Nkatini High School in Shigalo village near Malamulele in Limpopo.
April 12 2018: Four teenagers are arrested by police at C-Section in Ezakheniin Ladysmith after allegedly stabbing a 20-year-old at a local school. The victim survived.