Fatal end after pupil sneaks out for swim

Mitchel’s body found 48km from swim spot

- By Zoe Mahopo ■

A Grade 12 pupil who drowned in the Olifants river vanished moments before he was supposed to have been attending a study session at his school in preparatio­n for his final examinatio­n.

Gift Mitchel’s body was retrieved on Saturday, days after the 18-year-old disappeare­d after he was swept away by the raging waters of Olifants River, making him one of more than 20 people to have drowned in Limpopo in two months.

Limpopo education department said Gift, a pupil at Leagathoko Secondary School in Penge Village, outside Burgersfor­t, was supposed to have been in class but snuck out with friends to go swimming.

He was among matriculan­ts attending a study camp, which required them to sleep over at the school and spend time in class doing revisions with their teachers until the evenings.

Gift’s aunt, Tebogo Maleto, said her family was shattered by the loss. “This has broken my heart especially because we buried Gift’s mother in May. Now I have lost him.”

She said Gift left home in the first week of November to go to the study camp. On some days he would return to have his clothes washed or take a bath when there was no water at the school.

Maleto said she was shocked when a group of pupils came rushing to the house to say Gift had drowned. “The children were crying and trying to tell me what had happened to Gift,” she said.

According to the pupils, Gift had arrived at the school but left with twofriends. One of the pupils who witnessed the drowning told Maleto that at first Gift was refusing to get into the water because he could not swim but one of the boys talked him into it.

Moments after entering the water, he drowned.

Gift’s cousin, Kgostofala­ng Maleto, said this was a blow to the family as the teenager was excited about heading to varsity to study IT.

Spokespers­on for the provincial department of education Mike Maringa said it was investigat­ing the incident.

Provincial police spokespers­on Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo said members of the search and rescue team discovered Gift’s body about 48km from area where he drowned.

Mojapelo said more than 20 people had drowned in less than two months, including 12year-old Thabiso Madire from Praktiseer, who apparently jumped into the Tubatse river on November 23. The body of nine-year-old Tumo Letebele from the Willows Village was also discovered last week after he drowned in the Olifants River. Another incident happened at Vhulaudzi outside Makhado where the body of an 11-year-old girl who was reported missing was found floating in the river.

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