Re: Beach Outing | Students’ Christian Organisation (SCO) Western Cape
Official Media Statement
The Students’ Christian Organisation, Western Cape Province writes this statement with the primary objective of providing clarity and correction to some of the information that has been circulating and also to update members of SCO and the general public on the progress of the search for the missing students.
On the 18th of March 2017, SCO University of the Western Cape branch held its annual Beach Outing Event. The objective of this particular annual event is to welcome new members to the organisation. However, the unexpected happened this year when four students (2 males and 2 females) drowned whilst swimming at Strand Beach. The two female students were then rescued by some members of SCO, however, the other two male students went missing and could not be rescued. The incident was then reported to the Life Guards and a rescue mission for the two missing students, one a second year Law student at UWC and the other a first year Mechanical Engineering student at Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) was conducted but it was not successful because it had to be called off due to the strong winds and poor visibility.
On Sunday the 19th of March 2017, the authorities informed SCO and the families of the missing students that the search was continuing and that it was going to be intensified in order to bring about the desired outcomes. However, what they had alluded was not reflected in their actions. The basis for the latter argument is the fact when the family arrived at the scene there was no search happening nor was there anyone from the authorities to give an update on the progress of the search. We were then informed that the helicopter would arrive at one o’clock to do a search but there was no sign whatsoever of a helicopter at the anticipated time.
The justification for absence of the helicopter was that it had to attend another emergency yet the search for the two missing students was still within the 48 hours extensive and intensive search period which made it as equally imperative. Nevertheless, the families and Provincial leaders of SCO remained on site for the duration of the afternoon and were later joined by the Branch Executive Committee of SCO UWC. The families of the missing students and the leadership of SCO were jointly distraught by the absence of the authorities who were tasked to handle the search mission. They were then informed by the Warrant Officer that the search had been called off at 16:20 and that it would recommence the following day at 8:00am even though the families and SCO leadership had not witnessed any search taking place on this particular day.
On Monday the 20th of March 2017, SCO was informed that there were only two police divers available to continue with the search and that they were patrolling the shorelines of Strand, Maccassar and Monwabisi Beach. In the late afternoon the family of one of the missing students went to the site and still did not witness any form of a search being conducted nor were there any authorities to debrief the families and to update them on the progress of what was supposed to be a search. The family was then later joined by the leadership of SCO.
On Tuesday the 21st of March 2017 the families and leaders arrived at the site in the afternoon and upon their arrival the leadership received a telephone call notifying them that a body was found at the Maccassar Beach that could possibly be the body of one of the two missing students. The leadership was then advised to gather the family and to meet for a debriefing session at the Strand Police Station. Upon arrival at the police station, they met the Lieutenant Colonel handling the case and he informed them that the body that was found was confirmed to be a body of one of the SCO missing students. As things stand, the search for the other missing student is expected to continue.
We as SCO, would like to categorically state that we are highly dismayed by the manner which the media and the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) have been responding to the matter. Firstly, it is imperative to note that the area in which the beach outing was held was not a restricted area. There were no signs warning the students not to swim nor was there any warning given by the Life Guards who were present at the beach.
Secondly, assuming but not conceding that there were demarcations, we are of the view that the Life Guards still had an obligation to inform the students to evacuate the area to a supposedly swimming area. Thirdly, the two female students were not rescued by the Life Guards. They were rescued by SCO students. Hence the narrative that they were rescued by the Life Guards is false. Lastly, it is rather disappointing how the media was in a hurry to publish a one-sided story and refusing to wait for SCO to issue a formal statement pertaining to the incident.
As SCO Western Cape and families and friends of the two students, we would like to extend our gratitude to everyone who has been praying for and supporting us in this difficult season. We would also like to extend our gratitude to both UWC and CPUT Executive for their advice and support.
For information please contact:
Provincial Executive Committee General Secretary: Miss Thandekile Mbatha – 074 802 0720
SCO UWC Spokesperson: Mr Sibabalo Mtonga – 081 060 3568
Yours in Christ
Students’ Christian Organisation
Western Cape Secretary General
Contact: 074 802 0720