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SAHRC probe into rape, bullying, sexual harassment at schools

The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) in Limpopo has blamed the provincial Department of Education for the increase in bullying and rape incidents at schools in recent months. The Chapter 9 institution held a three-day hearing into bullying, corporal punishment and sexual relationships between teachers and learners in schools in the province.

The hearing started  just weeks after the death of Mbilwi Secondary School learner Lufuno Mavhunga, who took her own life after a video showing a humiliating, violent attack on her by a fellow pupil was circulated on social media. Harrowing and shocking testimonies were shared by parents, teachers unions, student structures and NGOs.

The Commission for Gender Equality’s Nkhensani Hlekani told the hearing that no solutions to sexual harassment in schools had been found despite its long existence. She said primary school learners were also being sexually assaulted by male teachers,

“One time we engaged one NGO in the Vhembe district. They were working with primary school children and they asked them some of the ways sexual harassment can manifest in schools. A child who must have been in Grade 3 or 4 said to the facilitator ‘a chalkboard’. The facilitator asked the child how the chalkboard could contribute to sexual harassment and the learner said, ‘because we cannot reach the chalkboard the teachers lift us up to be able to write on the chalkboard, but in the process put their finger in our panties,’” she narrated.

In one instance, during the proceedings, a parent was overcome with emotion when she shared how her three children were bullied at school and called names such as “blackie” because of their dark skin.

The parent, Muvhango actress Susan Rakuvu, said she too was bullied when she was in school. She said she was convinced the bullying of her children was influenced by her role in the soapie. In the soapie, she played a villain who once stole an infant belonging to the chief in order to control the throne.

“My kids would be called all sorts of names, such as your mother is a ‘baby snatcher’, at school, because of the role I played on TV. They also called them ‘children of a witch’ because they did not understand,” Rakuvu said.

SAHRC provincial manager, Victor Mavhidula said the objective of these hearings was to identify gaps, either in terms of policy or legislature, and also to ascertain whether there was a failure on the part of any individual.

“But so far, all fingers point to the department. We feel that that’s the right direction because it’s clear that the department is unable to implement its policies and does not want to carry out what it was mandated to do. These cases will keep increasing because the department is not doing its job. The law is very clear: if you find a teacher dating a learner, that must be reported to the police. The children’s legislation is very clear on that. But people hide it under the carpet. This is where the department should be leading,” said Mavhidula.

In her submission to the hearing, the department’s head Khathutshelo Dederen said the department is perturbed by all these unfortunate incidents that have been happening in schools of the province.

“We have submitted ourselves in this (hearing) and will take any recommendations that come out of this,” she said.

 A 28 year old Pastor, from a local church at Tshabalala near Hazyview was remanded in custody on the 5 October 2018, by the Mkhuhlu Magistrate Court for raping a minor in August 2018. The reminder comes after the 28 year old was arrested yesterday after police received information that he raped a 15 year old that is part of the congregation in his church.

According to information at police disposal, the pastor reportedly communicated with the minor on social media and requested that she comes to the church so he could pray for her. The 15 year old girl then went to the church thinking she was going to be prayed for. The pastor tried inserting his private parts into the minors, but it was too big. The following week, on the same month, he called her again, this time; he poured anointing oil on her and raped her. He then intimidated the young girl and told her not to tell anyone. The news got to the victim’s brother, who in turn informed their mother and went to report to the police. The suspect was arrested and appeared in court today, hence his remand.

The case was postponed to 11 October 2018, for a formal bail application. The provincial Commissioner of the police in Mpumalanga, Lieutenant General Mondli Zuma is disheartened by his this act and urges any person who may have fallen victim to the man of the cloths antics to come forward and report at their nearest police station.


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