The Higher Education Transformation Network (HETN), acting on behalf of its alumni members, has again condemned the continued refusal by the management of the North West University (NWU) to deny fair compensation to the Makhoang family for the death of their son at NWU in 2013.
In February 2012, the lifeless body of student Mr Thabang Makhoang was found at the bottom of a university swimming pool at the North West University (Potchefstroom campus) during the holding of a “fruit festival”. Irrespective of the number of witnesses at the scene and numerous commissions of enquiry, no one has to date been found guilty for the death of the student.
On March 17 2013, the HETN submitted written statements from three former security guards of the North West University (NWU) Potchefstroom Campus including the audio testimony of Mr Nicholas Mbaliso, a former Control Room security employee of the NWU Potchefstroom Campus that allege the existence of video footage depicting the drowning of former student Thabang Makhoang.
The audio evidence by Mr Mbaliso indicated how the NWU management:-
1. Allegedly provided false statements to the police and media regarding the circumstances of the student’s death (including the venue where the drowning took place).
2. Unsuccessfully attempted to stop Mr Mbaliso from looking at the video footage of Mr Makhoang’s drowning.
3. Subsequently pressurised Mr Mbaliso to alter his original statement regarding the circumstances of the death of the student.
4. Stage-managed the “official investigation” into the death of the student conducted by Adv. Vusi Pikoli and Adv. L. De Koning by;-
• Preventing key respondents such as Mr Mbaliso from being interviewed
• Ensuring the presence of a university legal advisor during interviewing of witnesses.
Since the submission of the requisite evidence to the SAPS, SAHRC and others, the racist NWU management responded by obtaining a court interdict against the Network (in an attempt to silence us), assaulted and thereafter dismissed Mr Mbaliso and five of his security guard colleagues. Dr Ingrid Tufvesson, a former Executive Advisor to the NWU Council was also dismissed for amongst others, her support for the Makhoang family and her insistence that the NWU must accept liability for Mr Makhoang’s death.
All attempts at bringing the NWU management to justice on the matter have either failed or have mysteriously come to naught. The SAPS and Hawks have yet to finalise their criminal investigations into the matter whilst the SAHRC and Public Protector respectfully declined to investigate the matter.
In the meantime, the NWU has offered a desperate Makhoang family an RDP house, a bursary programme in their son’s honour and a measly job for Thabang Makhoang’s as a domestic assistant at the NWU. Today, the sub-standard RDP house that the NWU built for Makhoang’s mother is dilapidated and cracking and Mrs Makhoang has long since been dismissed by the NWU from her “so-called job” for alleged “laziness”.
The Makhoang family, having realised that they have been deceived by the NWU, initiated legal proceedings with their last remaining funds at the Potchefstroom Regional Magistrates Court (Case No NW/P07/RC10/2015) in a bid to obtain fair compensation for their son’s life.
It is now over three years since the above travesty of justice has been visited upon the Makhoang family and nobody has to date been found guilty or liable for Thabang Makhoang’s death.
Mr Nicholas Mbaliso and his dismissed security guard colleagues find themselves penniless, unemployed and have been fighting the NWU tooth and nail to get justice. Their case has been mysteriously postponed, allocated and reallocated from the CCMA (Potchefstroom) and the Labour Court to no end. During this period, the NWU legal representatives have been ducking and diving on matters of technicality and procedure.
The Makhoang family’s litigation funds have since ran dry and the family’s legal representatives have since recused themselves from the matter.
The Potchefstroom Regional Magistrates Court has in the meantime ruled against the Makhoang’s family with costs and the NWU is now liable to recover the costs of the litigation from the poor Makhoang family.
This development is but one of the ongoing attempts by NWU management to frustrate Mr Mbaliso and the Makhoang family so that they cannot afford to sustain their legal battles in court. This is because the NWU management does not want to face justice or admit liability for their part in the death of student Thabang Makhoang as they know very well that the court judgement and outcomes will expose the NWU’s racist, preposterous and spurious management conduct. The Makhoang family has irreparably lost their son and the NWU under the leadership of Prof Hermann van Schalkwyk and Prof Dan Kgwadi is steadfast in escaping liability.
If this was a white student’s life, the NWU management would have long ago offered millions in compensation to the family but since Makhoang emanated from a poor impoverished household from somewhere in the dusty streets of Wolmaransstad, his life is worth a sub-standard cracked RDP house.
We are making a clarion call to the NWU management to admit liability and allow fair compensation to the family Thabang Makhoang.
We further call on all organs of civil society and legal practitioners who are able to assist, to help give justice to the Makhoang family for the unjustified loss of their son’s life. Justice delayed is justice denied.
Director: Media & Alumni Support
Higher Education Transformation Network.