Department concludes hearing into teachers’ role in pupil’s suicide

The Gauteng department of education has concluded its disciplinary hearing with four teachers, who, according to an independent investigation, caused 12-year-old pupil Sibusiso Mbatha to take his life.

Steve Mabona, the spokesperson for the department, said the principal, deputy principal, Mbatha’s class teacher, and the school’s head of department have been charged and subjected to a disciplinary hearing.

Mabona said the department is awaiting the outcome of the disciplinary hearing.

Mbatha, a grade 6 pupil at Khehlekile Primary School in Thokoza, east of Johannesburg, hung himself in the outside toilet of his home in October.

Homophobic utterances

The department appointed attorney Baitseng Rangata of the law firm BR Rangata Attorneys to look into the circumstances that led to Mbatha’s suicide.

According to the findings that Rangata presented, the deputy principal’s homophobic utterances towards Mbatha caused him to cut his life short.

Rangata said the deputy principal ill-treated, blasphemed, and homophobically abused Mbatha.

Rangata also said the principal, class teacher, and the school’s head of department should be charged and subjected to disciplinary proceedings for their flawed handling of Mbatha’s matter and failure to follow the reporting process.

Mabona explained: “All affected teachers were charged, and the disciplinary process was concluded.

“We are currently waiting for the outcome from the chairperson of the said DC [disciplinary committee] accordingly.”

None of the affected teachers were suspended, according to Mabona, who noted that he does not know when the disciplinary process concluded or when the outcome will be delivered.

Mbatha’s postmortem report

Meanwhile, Gauteng police spokesperson, Lieutenant-Colonel Mavela Masondo said the police are still waiting for Mbatha’s postmortem report.

“Once the report is out, the docket will be taken to the NPA [National Prosecuting Authority] for a decision,” said Masondo.

Mbatha’s aunt, Khanyisile Shongwe, said the family welcomed the conclusion of the disciplinary hearings but hastened to add that the family has been kept in the dark regarding the disciplinary hearing.

“It is thoughtful of them [the department’s disciplinary hearing process and conclusion]. We appreciate their gesture,” said Shongwe.

“We are still hurting as a family. Nothing is happening. No one is communicating with us. No one is telling us anything. We are on our own, to be honest.” 

The Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu, sent a delegation on Wednesday to deliver a sizable condolence card to Mbatha’s family.

Zulu and members of the LGBTQIA+ community both signed the card.


Sibusiso Mbatha’s mother, Nompumelelo Mbatha, with the condolences card that she received from the department of social development.

On October 23, Mbatha went to school, and later in the afternoon, he was involved in an altercation with another pupil.

Afterwards, the school deputy principal reprimanded him and told him to “leave his gayness outside the school gate”, according to the findings of Rangata’s investigation.

Verbal and public reprimands

“Those allegations have merit, and the evidence we have concurs with that allegation. We found that the utterances caused the deceased to commit suicide.

“The deceased was subjected to verbal and public reprimands for his sexual choices and orientation,” said Rangata.

She also said Mbatha’s class teacher and the school’s head of department did not handle the altercation properly.

She explained: “We found that the process used by one of the teachers, who is the HOD [head of department], and the class teacher in handling the matter when the child was having the altercation was not handled properly.

“The deputy principal failed to inform the principal of the situation and did not complete the school incident form to record the incident.

“He failed to deal with the situation in a sensitive and dignified manner.

“The principal failed to uphold his duties as prescribed, and he neglected to deal with the issues properly.

“He failed to let the school governing body know of the incident.”

Findings and recommendations

Rangata recommended that the deputy principal be placed on precautionary suspension and be subjected to a disciplinary hearing for his homophobic utterances towards Mbatha.

She said the principal, class teacher and HOD should also be subjected to disciplinary proceedings for failing to follow proper procedures for reporting the altercation.

“Those teachers should be charged and subjected to disciplinary proceedings for the flawed handling of the matter and failure to follow the reporting process,” said Rangata.

“The deputy principal should be charged by putting him on precautionary suspension and disciplinary hearing for ill-treating, blaspheming, and homophobically making utterances that led to the death of the pupil.

“The principal should be charged since he failed to uphold his duties as prescribed to him and neglected to do his duties properly.”

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