Lufuno’s death has sparked outrage and renewed calls for greater awareness around the damaging effects of bullying and for stricter action and consequences against perpetrators.
A 14-year-old girl made her first appearance in the Thohoyandou Children’s Magistrate’s Court last week on charges of assault, following her arrest in connection with the incident that took place at Mbilwi High School.
In the video widely circulated on social media, a passive Lufuno can be seen being repeatedly slapped by another learner while other learners gather to watch and cheer.
In a separate matter, this time in KwaZulu-Natal, a 16-year-old high school learner, who violently assaulted a classmate last September, was sentenced to 12 months’ community service. The learner has also been placed under the supervision of a probation officer for the duration of the sentence and will undergo intensive therapy.
She was convicted of assault with the intent to cause grievous bodily harm. The incident was also captured on video and went viral on social media. In the clip, the attacker is seen ripping off the teen’s underwear and dragging her along the ground and then pushing away a boy who tries to intervene, as she kicks the victim in the face.
Dr. Vuyo Ketelo, a senior State advocate with the National Prosecuting Authority, speaking to Metro FM, helps us understand what the Child Justice Act says, particularly around the phenomenon of bullying.
“In terms of the Child Justice Act, a child means any person who is under the age of 18 years. What happens when children find themselves in conflict with the law? Once these children find themselves in conflict with the law, their cases are heard at the Child Justice Court, but before it goes to the actual court, a preliminary inquiry is held, so as to understand the circumstances and the reasons why the child committed such an offense. The people who assist to find the reasons are social workers/probation officers from the Department of Social Development.
“They will need to prepare an assessment report, in order to assess why these children are committing these criminal acts. The findings from the assessment reports indicate that there might be a particular background which causes children to commit these types of offenses.”
Dr. Khetelo added that the Child Justice Act states that before you can go to the criminal trial, there must be programs to send the child to so that they can be assessed and assisted. The Act also clearly states that the children need to meet certain criteria before they can be sent to these programs, so the system won’t be labelled as giving the children any special treatment.
One of the requirements is acknowledging that they have done something wrong so that they are accountable for what they have done.
Should a child not meet these requirements, they are taken through the formal criminal process.