Sentencing of brutal teachers causes uproar

A regional court magistrate in the former Transkei has dispelled claims by the office of the Minister of Education Kader Asmal that his ‘lenient” sentencing of five Qumbu teachers, charged with the assault and crimen injuria on a Little Flower High School learner, was an effort to undermine the girl’s dignity.

Convicted by magistrate Ephraim Qwaqwa in the Qumbu Magistrate’s Court on November 12 were Nomvula Makgato (35), Ntsikakazi Mzantsi (30), Themisa Majebese (30), Nontombizodwa Qina (41) and Buyiselwa Msongelwa (37). They were sentenced to a fine of R3 000 each or 18 months imprisonment.

Two other teachers, Kunzulwa Calata (38) and Fundiswa Nokwe (38) were acquitted.

Ministerial spokesperson Molatwane Likhethe said that Asmal was ‘appalled” to learn of the sentence handed down, as well as statements made by Qwaqwa in his sentencing.

Said Likhethe: ‘According to reports, the teachers concerned assaulted a learner at the school in the most horrific manner, which included ordering her to insert a banana in her vagina and beating her with a switch, as part of her punishment for allegedly bringing a pornographic magazine to school.”

But, says Qwaqwa, the State failed to prove that the teachers had sexually assaulted the girl, although it initially charged the teachers under the Sexual Offences Act.

Responding to Asmal’s outburst, a surprised Qwaqwa said, ‘I feel the sentence is harsh in view of the fact that the education department, in an internal disciplinary inquiry, came to a similar guilty finding ... but only issued the teachers with a final warning”.

The teachers were found not guilty on the crimen injuria charge where they allegedly accused the pupil of allowing herself to be

‘sexually abused by taxi men”, Qwaqwa said.

But Likhethe also strongly condemned the magistrate’s pronouncement made during sentencing, ‘that the child, by bringing the pornographic book to school, had no dignity to protect”.

Qwaqwa defended his statement, saying: ‘I indicated that this girl had lifted her veil which protected her dignity by bringing this [pornographic] book to school, and the notes she had written in there, to be seen by everybody.”

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