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Saturday, January 22, 2022

Anger as Valley Primary School ‘sex pest’ granted bail

James Mahlokwane

Gauteng MEC for Education Panyaza Lesufi and parents of pupils who were allegedly sexually assaulted by an educator at Valhalla Primary School were disappointed yesterday when the man was granted R8000 bail.

As part of the bail conditions, the teacher may not enter Valhalla, in Centurion, nor influence witnesses, pupils or teachers directly or indirectly. He was also ordered to hand over his passport to police.

The parents walked out of the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court angrily, saying the judgment was unfair to the pupils.

It is allegedly that the teacher had been inappropriately touching the pupils since June last year.

#NotInMyName activists and politicians from the ANC Women’s League and the EFF tried to comfort the parents, who said the court had failed to recognise the seriousness of the allegations.

The court ruled that it was in the interest of justice that the educator be granted bail for the duration of trial.

This was despite heavy objections to bail by prosecutor Sanet Jacobson, investigating officer captain Johannes Mkhondo and a group of anti-crime activists and fellow teachers who submitted a petition.

Magistrate Desire Stigling said although the court took into account the arguments against bail, there was no evidence to suggest that the educator was going to be a danger to pupils at the school or in society.

She said the State did not present evidence to the court to suggest that the educator was going to influence State witnesses or interfere with ongoing police investigations.

However, Lesufi said it was not right. “But we remain very hopeful that the matter will be appropriately investigated. We have been here before and we recall that case against a patroller in Soweto.

“We’ve learnt from the mistakes we made there so we just have to ensure that the law enforcement agencies and the justice system really utilise the evidence to deal with this matter.

“To have (at least) 20 children who claim that they’ve been assaulted or sexually molested, to us is not a minor thing, but a serious matter. We received information that there might be other parents willing to add their voices on this matter. We will work with them and bring this matter to the attention of the investigating officer.”

Lesufi said parents and teachers should be strong for the sake of the pupils and not be discouraged by the bail judgment.

The department was hopeful and confident of a conviction in this case, he said.

#NotInMyName general-secretary Themba Masango and EFF regional treasurer Obakeng Ramabodu said they were extremely disappointed that the accused received bail for such serious allegations.

They promised to tail the case and mobilise members of their organisations to rally behind the victims and the parents.

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