Bus victims on ‘training’ trip

The trip that resulted in the death of 14 Alexandra township schoolchildren was sponsored by the Department of Education and Training. When the accident occurred, the children were on their way to a “leadership training” youth camp – an activity condemned by at least one student society as “brainwashing” and designed to “highjack and doom” student representative councils.

DET PRO Job Schoeman denied this week that the trip a fortnight ago was politically motivated. Youth camps, he said, concentrate on nature conservation, study techniques, sports, religion and the development of leadership qualities among the youth. If SRC members were included, it was incidental. 

But the Soweto Students Congress has called on students to boycott a similar DET tour proposed for June 14 and has accused the DET of a campaign to reverse gains made by SRCs.  “We call upon parents to disapprove these trips” because of contradictory” developments which did not serve the interests of students, said Sosco. 

According to Schoeman, the students had completed an educational tour of the Sabie region and were on their way to a youth camp at Hoedspruit in the Eastern Transvaal when their bus careered off the road and rolled down a cliff.  The camp they were headed for was “Ninja”, co-owned by Soweto millionaire, Zola “Mr Cool” Mahobe, linked last week to the theft of more than R10-million from Standard Bank. 

Meanwhile the Automobile Association has called for a commission ofenquiry into the bus disaster, urging the minister of education, Gerrit Viljoen, to find whether first aid was given at the scene of the accident. The AA said the lack of bandage wrappings suggested that the injured were not stabilized. The commission should also enquire if proper extrication equipment was used to free the injured and, Eugene Roelofse, director of the AA research unit, said reasons should be given for taking the injured to the Mapulaneng Hospital in Lebowa, which had limited facilities when these could be shared by Mapulaneng and the hospital in Sabie.

The commission should also look-into why an emergency helicopter had not been called from Johannesburg. This helicopter could have had a highly trained medical team and sophisticated equipment on the scene or at the hospital within an hour. He also questioned whether plyboard had been used in the construction of the bus floor and whether it had contributed to the tearing away of sets and supports.

Roelofse said the minister had appointed a departmental enquiry last week but this was inadequate, as it would not be able to cover issues such as medical treatment and engineering. He argued that a departmental inquiry was a non-starter because it would be conducted in secret. – Thami Mkhwanazi

This article originally appeared in the Weekly Mail newspaper

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