Ndebele pushes for vigorous probe into cadet's death

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pretoria - Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele on Wednesday urged the maritime safety authority to leave no stone unturned in the investigation of a sea cadet's death.

Ndebele called on the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) to do all it can when investigating 19-year-old cadet Akhona Felicity Geveza's death.

Transport spokesperson Logan Maistry said that investigations into the matter began following Geveza's death last year. 

"We don't want to create an impression that investigations are only beginning now. Minister Ndebele signed a mandate for SAMSA to be part of the investigations two weeks ago. SAMSA is assisting as part of a bigger body of investigation," explained Maistry.

Geveza was part of the Transnet National Port Authority (TNPA) cadet training programme on a United Kingdom flagged vessel, the MV Safmarine Kariba. 

She was found dead under mysterious circumstances in Croatian waters on 24 June 2010, just two-week's short of completing her mandatory sea time to obtain her ship navigating officer qualification.

Geveza was laid to rest on 17 July 2010 at her home in Nxarhuni, East London.

Ndebele said if the investigation reveals any criminal activity or negligence on the part of any person, criminal proceedings must be instituted against such persons in any country that person may be in or wherever criminal jurisdiction may be established.

Ndebele also added that the cadet training programme also needs to be reviewed in order to ascertain whether "there is in deed abuse of sea cadets, and steps must be taken to ensure their protection as well as proper treatment and working conditions of seafarers."

The Transport Department said the scope of the investigation (carried out in terms of the SAMSA Act and Merchant Shipping Act) includes determining whether Geveza was raped as well as the exact cause of her death. 

While on the vessel, Geveza was allegedly sexually harassed and may have been raped by the chief officer. She reportedly confided this to a colleague.

The master of the vessel was informed and convened a meeting between Geveza and the chief officer on 24 June 2010, presumably to investigate the allegations. Geveza failed to arrive for the meeting.

A search of the vessel revealed she was missing. The vessel turned around to conduct a search at sea and some two hours later, her body was found in Croatian waters. 

Following an autopsy by Croatian authorities, the cause of death was attributed to drowning.