Molefe Seeletsa, The Citizen
Three men have been denied bail at the Shoshanguve Magistrate’s Court in connection with the recent space cookie saga in which scores of school kids were hospitalized. They are facing 43 attempted murder charges after being accused of providing laced muffins to Pulamadibogo Primary School in a “Buy One, Get One Free” promo.
This story was first published by the Citizen on 5 October 2023.
At least 90 pupils between grades R and 7 from Pulamadibogo Primary School, located in the north of Pretoria, were hospitalised after consuming the “space muffins” last month. According to the Gauteng Department of Education, the pupils complained of nausea, stomach cramps and vomiting at the time.
Three men, aged between 19 to 29, were arrested in connection with the matter.
Amukelani Nyulunga, Ofentse Maluleka, and Katlego Matlala appeared at the Soshanguve Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday, 4 October 2023 to apply for bail.
Their attorney, Tshegofatso Motau said the three would plead not guilty to the 43 counts of attempted murder, and argued it was in the interest of justice for them to be granted bail.
“The right to be presumed innocent is not only pre-trial right, but a trial right issue. We are not here to determine the guilt or innocence of the accused persons,” he said.
Prosecutor Luyanda Nkwale said the state was opposing bail because the suspects might tamper with evidence or intimidate witnesses.
Nkwale told the court the accused sold the muffins at R2 each and used a “buy one, get one free” promotion to push sales.
“Some of the victims who bought the muffins then shared the muffins with their other friends and schoolmates. On the other hand, some of the victims allege the accused persons forced them to take and eat the muffins in their presence, or else the accused would assault them,” Nkwale added.
Members of the Soshanguve community picketed outside the court, demanding the accused be denied bail.Bail
judgment is expected to be handed down on 20 October 2023. The three men will remain in custody.
Gauteng Department of Education spokesperson, Steve Mabona confirmed all the pupils who were in hospital following the incident have since been discharged and would return to school for the last term of the academic calendar.“All learners are at home. We are [expecting them] when we open our schools next week. Surely they would have healed and they will then join the other learners.
“We are quite concerned, but we are monitoring the situation,” Mabona told reporters outside the court.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng previously called on the department and school governing bodies (SGBs) to vet vendors who sell food to school children.
The DA’s Gauteng MPL Khume Ramulifho said the provincial party would pressure the provincial government to implement safety measures to prevent a repeat of the incident.“Gauteng schools lack a functional vetting process for vendors to ensure learners are sold safe, hygienic and healthy food.
“The DA will continue to pressure the department to implement the vetting process for all vendors trading outside school premises across the province to protect the learners from drugs and food poisoning,” Ramulifho said in a statement.