Home South African 17 years after rugby death, mom still seeking answers

17 years after rugby death, mom still seeking answers

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The then 18-year-old suffered fatal injuries in a rugby game for Potchefstroom High School for Boys after a doctor had recommended he should not play.

Johannesburg – While the country is still caught in the euphoria of the Springboks’ 2019 Rugby World Cup triumph in Japan last Saturday, the mother to one of the sport’s rising stars is still seeking answers 17 years after her son died after a game.

Thabang Vuyo M’Belle, 18, suffered fatal injuries in a rugby game for Potchefstroom High School for Boys after a doctor had recommended he should not play.

It was also suspected that the police could have bungled the case.

At the time of his death, Thabang was completing his matric at the

North West school and was a star rugby player with junior Springbok colours in 2002.

His mom, Lumka M’Belle, told The Star that her son was injured in a match and sustained a concussion.

The youngster’s doctor advised that he shouldn’t participate in further rugby games until prescribed otherwise.

Despite this, the school went on a rugby trip to Joburg on April 30, 2002, where Thabang played.

“He was feeling dizzy and then he got hit in the head, took a few steps and lost consciousness,” said M’Belle.

The youngster was airlifted to Milpark Hospital but remained comatose.

M’Belle was informed about his condition by a hospital counsellor and the family arrived that evening.

Thabang, however, died two days later.

“This case has been drawn out for 17 years and I still don’t have answers about what happened to my son,” the mother said.

She has lodged a complaint with the North West Department of Education and Sport Development to establish how her son died. However, she has not received any answers.

The desperate mother tried writing to the president and to the SA Human Rights Commission but to no avail until she approached the Office of the Public Prosecutor and former public protector Thuli Madonsela for intervention in 2017.

“Madonsela informed me that despite so much time having lapsed since the death of Thabang, she would still investigate the matter and get to the bottom of what happened,” said M’Belle.

Madonsela could not complete

the report before her term ended and she was replaced by Busisiwe Mkhwebane.

In June 2017, a report on the alleged maladministration by the North West Department of Education and Sport Development regarding Thabang’s death was released.

Mkhwebane concluded that the department needed to make an ex gratia payment (out of goodwill and on humanitarian grounds) to M’Belle because of the circumstances under which her son had died and the trauma she had experienced.

The department was also required to arrange professional counselling for M’Belle as well as ensure that Thabang’s death was reported to the police for a criminal investigation and an inquest.

M’Belle claimed that the remedial actions were not followed and she took the initiative and opened a case in Mafikeng, North West.

The case was transferred to the Boksburg police station.

Gauteng police spokesperson Brigadier Mathapelo Peters told The Star that M’Belle’s case number could not be found on their system.

However, the police checked at the Boksburg North and Boksburg police station and there was a possibility that the case was registered in a different month.

“Our findings, although preliminary, suggest that in one month there is a case that was closed and this will now form part of our investigation pending our engagement with the complainant,” she said.

North West Education Department spokesperson Elias Malindi said all the relevant stakeholders would be consulted on the matter.

“Be advised further that once these processes have been finalised, a detailed progress report will be forwarded to your good self,” he said.

M’Belle said she believed that her son’s case has not received the attention it deserved because it wasn’t a high-profile matter.

“I should just forget about the death of my only son, even though I do not have answers why he died, and no one is held responsible for his death,” she added.