A pupil who was in Enoch Mpianzi’s raft activity group said he told facilitators about what he saw in the water when his friend drowned – but was ignored.
The chilling account was narrated on the Eusebius McKaiser show on Radio 702 on Wednesday morning.
To protect the identity of the pupil and to avoid traumatizing him again, the interview was voiced by the station. The pupil gave a step-by-step description of what happened during the camp.
“I couldn’t sleep that night,” the boy said.
He said they were taken on to a rugby field and given about four thick wooden poles and a few thin poles and instructed to build a stretcher. They were then instructed to use the stretcher across the river in a “mock emergency”.
“The facilitators asked who could and could not swim. Enoch identified himself as able to swim. None of us wore life-vests … The school had also not asked us to bring life-vests to the camp,” the boy said.
He confirmed that the river tide was strong. “Within two minutes of being in the river, the stretcher capsized. It came loose and we all scraped for things to hang on to. At that moment I felt like I was going to die. Enoch seemed stuck in one place, trying to keep his head above the water.
“I grabbed a pole and tried to pass it to Enoch but I couldn’t reach him. The river swept him away. One boy started screaming for help when we saw Enoch struggling, but there was no adult in sight.
“We were swept across the river bank and then I lost sight of Enoch,” he said.
At this point, the camp facilitators were waiting for them further downstream.
“We could all have been swept away.”
Before they could catch their breaths, they were instructed to “quickly” walk to the hall using a “thorny trail”.
“Some of us pulled our tracksuit pants under our feet while walking on top of the thorns. There were no teachers at the river. I had last seen the teachers when we arrived at the lodge.
“Roll call was done at the hall.”
He said that when Mpianzi’s name was called, his friend raised his hand, but the person moved to the next name.
The person, he said, “thought Enoch didn’t come to the camp, but I told him Enoch was at the camp, and the last time I saw him he was struggling at the river”.
“The person then said there were groups with more headcount and Enoch might be in [one of] them,” he added.
The day continued with activities.
He and his friend approached the camp facilitator to tell them that Mpianzi was missing. “The facilitator was rude and dismissed us.”
“On Thursday, after activities, another roll call was done. We told the teacher he had definitely come to camp and the search began. One facilitator wore a life jacket and went into the river to look for Enoch. The camp activities continued.”
He said about dinnertime, he and his friends were taken into a separate venue and interviewed by the police.
“Before we left the lodge, the headmaster addressed us and emphasized that we must not speak to anyone.
“Later that day I heard the news that my new friend was no longer alive.”