GROUNDVIEW: How could a teacher guilty of sexual assault go on teaching for five years?

A learner was betrayed by the education department and the National Prosecuting Authority

By GroundUp Editors

30 May 2022

Illustration of justice system

The justice and education systems have failed a learner who was sexually assaulted by a teacher five years ago. And it’s hard to believe it’s an isolated case. Illustration: Lisa Nelson

Ayanda Ntuthu, the teacher found guilty of the sexual assault of a learner at Thandokhulu High School in Cape Town, will finally be sentenced in June.

This is more than five years after the assault and for most of that time he has been teaching at the school. The learner he assaulted has been forced to see him nearly daily.

A complaint was registered with the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) in March 2017. But the department could not find “sufficient reliable evidence” to charge him.

Fortunately, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) thought otherwise and Ntuthu was brought to the Wynberg Magistrates Court on 31 August 2017. But the case was postponed to October and he was released on bail.

This was the first of no fewer than five postponements: the prosecutor was waiting for statements from learners who had been writing exams and were now on school holiday; the investigating officer had a death in the family and was off work, and then had difficulty getting a witness statement “because of a language barrier”; the prosecutor could not locate the witnesses. Also, there was Covid, loadshedding, machines not working in court, defence witnesses not being in court “and other reasons”, according to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

Finally, exasperated with the postponements, the magistrate withdrew the charges in May 2018.

However, with the appointment of a new investigating officer, the charges were reinstated, and Ntuthu was finally, eventually, ultimately, many years later, found guilty of sexual assault on 18 March 2022.

But he is still employed as a teacher. Why? Because the WCED took so little interest in the matter that it was unaware until recently that Ntuthu had been prosecuted and found guilty. Likewise the NPA didn’t bother to inform the WCED that Ntuthu was being tried again or when he was found guilty. Not our responsibility, the NPA told us.

Only now have steps been “initiated” by the WCED to suspend Ntuthu.

The whole story is that of a spectacular failure by the WCED and the NPA to protect this learner and to bring an offender to justice.

A child was betrayed by the education system to which he had been entrusted, and a guilty teacher bounced through the courts and went on teaching for five whole years.

It is hard to imagine that this was an isolated case. How many other guilty teachers continue teaching because of the failure of the responsible adults to protect children?