It has been a several days since a Parktown Boys’ pupil Enoch Mpianzi had drowned during an orientation camp. Learners were told not to mention any details to anyone.
However, a grade 8 pupil has on Wednesday narrated in graphic detail how he and other pupils watched Enoch Mpianzi struggle in the water and how they all screamed for help but there was no adult nearby to hear them.
The parents of the witness approached the Eusebius Mckaiser Show wanting to share their child’s insight into the tragedy that’s left South Africans demanding answers.
Mpianzi’s body was found in the Crocodile River last week after a water activity at the Nyati Bush and River Break lodge as part of a school orientation camp.
Listen to the full audio testimony below:
READ THE FULL TESTIMONY BELOW:
My name is Lizo [not real name]. I am a Grade 8 learner at Parktown Boys High School. On Wednesday morning, the 15th January, at Parktown Boys’, I saw a boy standing alone, looking lonely. My friend Solly [not his real name] and I went to him, to introduce ourselves to him. His name was Enoch Mpianzi. We instantly formed a bond.
On the way to the bus, we greeted an older man who seemed to be Enoch’s father, and we introduced ourselves.
There was no roll call done before we stepped on the bus, and none was done before the first activity at Nyathi River and Bush lodge.
We next had lunch.
We were split into groups for the first activity, building a stretcher. I was in the same group as Enoch.
We were taken to a rugby field where we were given about four thick wooden poles and a few thinner poles and instructed to build the stretcher. We struggled with tying the material together. Some poles kept breaking. One of the activity facilitators told us to be more innovative and to even use our shoelaces to tie the poles together.
When the stretcher was complete, our next instruction was to race, carrying the stretcher, imagining an emergency. It had to be carried to the finish line.
We were then told to take the stretcher to the river.
There were no Parktown Boys’ High School teachers at the river, only us Grade 8 boys, the school prefects and the camp facilitators.
The facilitators and prefects asked who could and could not swim, and those of us who said we were able to swim were instructed to handle the river task. Enoch identified himself as able to swim.
No life vests were issued to any of us. None of us wore life vests. The school also had not asked us to bring any life vests to the camp.
When we got to the Crocodile River, we were told to get into the water and get ready to sail. Someone in the group was identified as the injured person for the purpose of our exercise and had to be sailed down the river, through the water, on the stretcher we had made, to a point along the river that was identified as point B.
We fitted a black rubber doughnut-like swimming tube under the stretcher.
Again, no safety vests were provided to us.
The river tides were strong. In less than two minutes in the water, the stretcher capsized; it came loose and we all scraped for things to hang onto. Some of us held onto the rubber tube as it had come loose.
Some of us used one arm to hang onto the rubber tube and the other to paddle.
At that moment, I felt like I was going to die.
Enoch did not manage to get to the rubber tube. I saw him struggling. He seemed stuck in one place, trying to keep his head above water. I grabbed a pole and tried to pass it to Enoch. But … I couldn’t reach him… the river swept him away.
Some boys started screaming for help as they also saw, like me, Enoch struggle, but there was no adult in sight.
We were swept around a river bend and then … I lost sight of Enoch.
At this point, by now a little further down the river from where we had started, we were grabbed by camp facilitators who had been waiting for us downstream. The current was so strong that it was impossible to swim. We could all have been swept away. Some of us were lucky to be grabbed by the facilitators. While trying to catch our breaths, we were instructed to immediately walk to the hall using a thorny trail. Some of us pulled our tracksuit pants under our feet while walking on top of the thorns.
There were no teachers at the river. I had last seen the teachers when we arrived at the lodge.
Roll call was done at the hall. Solly, my friend, raised his arm when Enoch’s name was called. He was asked by the roll-caller if he was Enoch. When his response was “no”, the roll-caller moved on to the next name. The person doing the roll call said he thinks Enoch did not come to camp.
But I told him that Enoch was at the camp and that the last time I saw him, he was struggling in the river! The person then said that there were groups with more headcount and Enoch might have left my group for another. My story about the river, and Enoch struggling, was not listened to further.
This was also the very first roll call of the trip.
For the next activity, we were meant to cook chicken for our supper. Our cooking was so bad that the camp provided full meals for us. I told my friend Solly how worried I was about not having seen Enoch since the river. We then approached a camp facilitator to tell him that Enoch was missing. The facilitator was rude, and dismissed us.
The second roll call was done in the evening around dinner time. Enoch was still not there. When I asked the facilitator about Enoch, again, I was told that Enoch was in another cabin and had left our group.
I couldn’t sleep that night. I kept hearing wild sounds and worried if Enoch was alright.
More activities happened on Thursday morning. One was an obstacle course and the other was swimming at the pool. In the morning on Thursday the 16th, a roll call was done and Enoch was still not there.
The teacher said he thinks Enoch did not come to camp. Solly and I went to the teacher and told him that Enoch had definitely come to camp and that the last time I saw him was at the river. It is after this that a search for Enoch started. I then saw one facilitator go to the river with a life jacket to look for Enoch. The camp activities continued even though Enoch was missing.
After lunch, there was another roll call at the hall. Activities continued including a trust fall, a plate activity, and a talk by coach Luke. We then went to the pool.
I came back, took a shower and went to dinner. A woman facilitator called my group, and showed us a photo of Enoch and asked us if we had seen him at camp.
Again, I said that I had been with Enoch. The facilitator took me and two other boys to another building.
At this building, I was called to be interviewed by the police.
Later on Friday, with the other boys, I boarded the bus back to Johannesburg. Before we left the lodge, the headmaster addressed us and emphasised that we must not speak to anyone.
Later that day, I heard the news that my new friend was no longer alive.