The Valhalla Primary School teacher accused of sexually assaulting 23 pupils will remain in police custody while the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) verifies his address and checks his criminal history.
The 55-year-old appeared at the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court on Friday morning.
He had been arrested on Wednesday following a request by the SAPS Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offence Unit to hand himself over.
Pupils at the school reported the teacher last week after Tshwane Metro Police Department officers had visited the school to teach them about spot harassment.
The officers were shocked when pupils claimed that the educator had been touching them inappropriately since June last year.
The Department of Education said the pupils were aged between 10 and 13 years and in they were in grades 5, 6 and 7.
They had given statements to social workers and psychologists.
These experts were sent to the school by the department to assess the situation.
On Friday, the teacher walked into the courtroom and stood firmly upright, facing the magistrate for the duration of proceedings.
He paid little attention to the media, parents, anti-crime activists and ANC and DA supporters who were carrying banners and placards to show their anger.
However, he reacted with shock when the translator told him in Sotho that he was being charged with sexual assault.
Some people assumed it was because the translation “Go kata” also meant “to rape” in Sotho.
Spokesperson for the provincial Department of Education Steve Mabona said it welcomed the arrest, but would continue with the independent sexual assault investigation into the teacher’s alleged conduct.
The NPA said the educator may still face added counts, other than the sexual assault charge, depending on the eventual outcome of the police investigations.
So far, the police and NPA confirmed seven counts, but that number was likely to increase next Wednesday when he returned to court, they said.
“We are happy that there is some movement. We have already started taking him through the disciplinary process and have already removed him from the school.
“Our departmental case is not dependent on the criminal case, because we do have some statements to continue with departmental action.
“We await the court process, but for us, we will continue with what we are doing, and the counselling we are providing to learners.”
Mabona also called on all stakeholders to give law enforcement agencies space to conduct investigations so that they avoid contaminating the case.
In the past, contamination of case resulted in the department losing cases.
“Parents must desist from coaching their children because that’s what emanated strongly in the previous cases. For us, that’s what is paramount and we put an emphasis on that.”
Mabona said the South African Council of Educators confirmed it would conduct its own investigations, working with the police to ensure that educators do not receive certificates to teach without thorough vetting.
#NotInMyName activists and prophet Paseka Mboro were among the people who gathered outside court to support the victims.
Mboro said: “We need to lose this culture of assaulting and abusing children. I don’t know where this comes from but it needs to go. We cannot keep attending to such matters in courts. Pupils should be our children, not our women.
“What I can tell our children is that they must not be afraid to speak to someone when they have problems. Find a friend to talk to, find an educator to talk to, and find a neighbour to talk to. There will always be someone willing to help you.”
#NotInMyNameSA secretary-general Themba Masango said South Africa needed a change in mentality and strategy to combat assaults on pupils in places where they were sent to be safe.
“We are saying the investigation should go through as quickly as possible so that we can find out if he did this or not.
“If he is innocent, let him go, but if he is guilty, we cannot afford to have teachers doing evil like this. Churches are crime scenes, schools are crimes scene, restaurants are crime scenes; where must our children go?”