Knysna teacher up for sexual assault
A Thembelitsha Primary School teacher is expected to appear in the Knysna Magistrate’s Court today (15 November), on five counts of sexual assault and one of sexual grooming involving learners at the school.
The man, who is represented by local lawyer Carl Jeppe, first appeared in court on Monday this week, when the matter was postponed to Wednesday 14 November for his bail application. Yesterday, it was postponed again, to be heard today.
Knysna police arrested the teacher on Friday last week for alleged sexual misconduct concerning a 13-year-old learner.
According to Knysna police spokesperson Captain Thulani Mondlana, a girl from the school reported on 2 November that she was sexually assaulted on the school premises during October.
‘During school hours’
“It is alleged that on Monday 22 October 2018, in the morning during school hours, the teacher sexually assaulted the learner. As a result, two more learners aged 11 and 12 came forward with similar allegations,” said Mondlana.
Before the accused’s bail application yesterday, the mother of one of the alleged victims told Knysna-Plett Herald that their children are being victimised and picked on by their peers at the school and that as a result, one of the other alleged victims has not been at school since the teacher’s arrest.
“What is heartbreaking is that we send our children to school and trust that the teachers will treat them as their own, not knowing that we could possibly be exposing them to sexual assault and victimisation,” she said.
Aubrey Tsengwa, a Knysna councillor and chairperson of the school’s governing body, said they were made aware of the alleged incidents by the school principal and that if the teacher is found guilty they hope that justice will prevail.
School principal Siyabulela Lokwe said he is not at liberty to talk to the media about the allegations, and that he neither denies nor corroborates the allegations.
Petition against bail
The case has attracted the attention of national activist movement The Total Shutdown (TTS), which was formed “to dismantle patriarchy and fight gender-based violence and femicide”, and a group of local supporters of the movement was present for both court appearances this week. “We are relieved that the man remains behind bars until his bail application hearing.
We will do whatever it takes to ensure that justice is served in this case and we will continue supporting the mothers of these children in their struggle to see justice being done,” said TTS local organiser Candice Ludick.
Earlier this year, on 1 August, the movement submitted a list called “24 Demands” to President Cyril Ramaphosa, and Ludick said it is important to highlight demand number 10 on their list, being consistent sentencing and enforcement of existing laws - in particular the minimum sentencing legislation in sexual and domestic violent cases.
The group submitted a petition with 1 566 signatures opposing bail for the accused prior to proceedings yesterday. “We are glad the police have agreed to take cognizance of signatures that will come from the online petition as well,” said Ludick.
The accused with his lawyer Carl Jeppe (far left) in the Knysna Magistrate’s Court yesterday 14 November. Activists from The Total Shutdown movement came out strongly against bail for the accused, who may not be identified until he has pleaded.