23 April 2019

South Africa: Lesufi Facing Several Law Suits Following Collapse of Walkway At Hoã«rskool Driehoek

The Gauteng Department of Education is facing several law suits after a walkway collapsed at Hoërskool Driehoek earlier this year killing four pupils and leaving scores injured.

Provincial education MEC Panyaza Lesufi told the media during the official handover of a new walkway on Tuesday that he had been served papers from angry parents who wanted action to be taken against his department.

On February 1 around 08:00, pupils were making their way back to their classroom after morning prayer when the concrete walkway linking two blocks fell on 26 pupils.

Roydon Olckers, Jandré Steyn and Marli Currie died on the scene while Marnus Nagel later succumbed to his injuries in hospital.

"The department has received countless legal documents from parents of the deceased and injured learners. I don't want to oppose anybody in court. I don't want to argue in court. However, we can't close the department and expect learners not to go to school.

"We need to find each other. We need to find a middle ground and solutions. It is not like I was sitting somewhere under a tree and called for the bridge to collapse," said Lesufi.

Three commissioned reports

The MEC added that he has received separate commissioned reports prepared by the school, head of department, Edward Mosuwe and structural engineers. He said the three reports would be consolidated into one report before being made public.

"I have given them ten days to consolidate their reports into one report. The consolidated report must be given to parents and made public to everyone. So far, there are other reports from the South African Human Rights Commission and judiciary which are outstanding," he said.

Werner Venter, General Manager at AcelorMittal, said his company played a significant role in building the new and safe walkway.

"Upon hearing about the tragedy, I didn't know what were the circumstances and we put together a proposal to assist in building a new bridge. We then demolished the old structure and built the new one. We worked with local authorities, local businesses and the (education) department in building the new structure. It took us 65 days to complete this structure.

"We worked tirelessly to ensure our children are back to their classes quickly. This structure was funded by us and we built it a low cost," said Venter.

Sleepless nights

However, one employee at the school said it would time for her to walk near the new bridge again.

"I will never forget that day. It will be in my mind for the rest of my life. Whenever, I think about the screams for help coming from those children, who were under the rubble, I find it hard to sleep. I have underwent counselling but, counselling will never erase those images in my mind. Those children died painfully and no parent would want to see her child in that situation," she said.

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