Resulting from the report released on the independent investigation into the tragic drowning of Thabang Makhoang, an enquiry was received from the City Press. Herewith the questions from the City press and accompanying answers from the North-West University:
1. Is the university content with the finding that Thabang's drowning was a "freak accident", given the fact that there are material differences in statements, a lack of cross-examination and the unavailability of evidence from state witnesses?
The NWU voluntarily appointed two very well-known and reputable advocates to conduct an independent in-depth investigation. Their mandate was broad and all relevant documents and resources were made available to them. They could call anyone they wanted to give testimony, save the state witnesses, for whom they had affidavits. The university could not and did not want to influence the outcome of this investigation. The finding that no person or entity was to blame or was negligent was a most important one, and the NWU accepts it. The finding that Thabang's death was a freak accident, and unexplained, is therefore also accepted. To refresh your memory, the advocates found that the accident “which took place in the midst of virtually every conceivable precaution having been taken during an event arranged solely for the fun and team-building features thereof, and not during any form of initiation." Regarding your insinuation that the advocates did not do their work thoroughly, you will have to take it up with them. You are referred to paragraphs 5, 6, 7 and 8 of the report.
2. Can the university please explain why there were no lifeguards on duty on the day in question? A professional lifeguarding association has told us that emergency personnel generally do not have the specific training to look for signs of drowning.
Although the recommendations of the report include that the adequacy of the training of people present at Reception and Introduction events be investigated and improved upon, you are once again referred to the media release as well as paragraph 49 of the report where it is indicated that even if such persons were present, it would most likely not have been of any help, as the deceased was not observed to have been in distress.
3. Please can the university explain why it was necessary for a report about the failure of "strategic students" to turn up in residences needed to be submitted to the university by the HK? Are reports about "non-strategic" students also submitted?
Feedback with regard to all students who fail to turn up at residences (white and from the designated groups) is required, in order for these to be followed up. The only reason why it is separated, is for the fact that a minimum number of places in residences are reserved for students from the designated groups, and we want to ensure that these are filled in order to address diversity.
4. Can the university explain what a "strategic student" is and why this designation is necessary?
The use of the term is not a formal one and derived from the fact that the recruitment of students from designated groups to address diversity is a strategic priority for the university, and the use thereof was limited to documents dealing with recruitment. However, even before the release of the advocates' report this matter was addressed, and the term is no longer and will no longer be used. Refer to paragraph 94 of the report.
5. How widespread is the use of the term "strategic student" in terms of university management?
Very limited and only at operational level. We refer you to the answer provided in 4 above.
6. Has the university previously had problems with "strategic students" not turning up for residence?
It is an ongoing problem for all students, not just for those whom you refer to as "strategic" students (or students from the designated groups). We experience this problem even with students not staying in residences. In fact it is a problem at all universities, as prospective students often apply to more than one university. Feedback is therefore required in order to follow these up, but it is usually a result of students not being able to pay for studies, being accepted at other universities, or deciding against university studies.
7. Please can the university explain why Thabang's Aanmeldingsvorm/Intake Form was dated 15/11/11 when, from all witness statements, it is clear he only arrived at the university two days later?
Not two days later, two months later. Although paragraph 25 of the report highlights the fact that students of Ratau seemed to remember that they completed this form upon arrival, paragraphs 18 and 19 clearly state that this form together with others were mailed to all students during the period 23 September and 15 November 2011, and that the completed form was received back at the university from the deceased. You are referred to par 19 of the report: "The fact that an Intake Form, duly completed in manuscript and dated 15 November 2011, detailing the deceased's particulars and a duly completed “Belangstellingsvraelys”, to which was attached a photograph of the deceased, was filed of record with the NWU administration warrants the unassailable inference that the deceased was sent the aforegoing documents, received same, completed the aforesaid two documents, and returned same to the Potch Campus Administration".
8. Is the university's management aware that several members of Campus Security were asked by the management of same to change their witness statements? Why was this done?
A report in this regard was received from a disgruntled member at the Potchefstroom Campus Protection Services, as part of a bigger complaint. A preliminary investigation into the matter was immediately conducted, and the allegations were found not to be true.
9. At page 24 of the report, paragraph 41.14, it is noted that "it further stands uncontested that the pool gate was locked by one of the organisers of the event at 17h50 on the day in question". Please can the university explain how it is possible for Thabang's body to have been discovered at 19h00, by another student, when the gate was already locked?
The main gates are normally locked, and students gain access by means of a turnstile, swiping their student cards. As a result of the large group, the main gates were opened on this occasion. These were however locked again after the event. Students afterwards gained access in the normal way through the turnstile, and one student discovered his body.