Is this the right way to end the Chengelo assault case?

Jabulani Nhliziyo, the student who has been expelled from Chengelo Secondary School, says he is sorry for his barbaric conduct. Jabulani has apologised to Gawen Powell whom he and his colleague Mwila Hara assaulted last Friday.

In a message posted on the Chengelo Secondary School’s Facebook page following his expulsion for brutalising Gawen, Jabulani stated that he was sorry for acting out of control.

“It is with utmost remorse that I am writing to apologise for my actions in the video that has been circulating on social media. I am sending my apologies to my friend Gawen Powell, I am sorry for acting out of control, I hope you find it within your heart to forgive me. I am terribly sorry to my parents, family, school, fellow students, friends and everyone who has seen the video and has been coerced into debates alike. I have no right to cause physical pain to another person, what happened with my friend was a disgrace, an act of stupidity which I deeply regret. For those of you who may know me and have grown up with me, you know that I’m not this type of person and I certainly do not have the type of mind-set to do what I did. I have been brought up with values of love and respect which I intend to uphold at all times,”

stated Jabulani.

“I am truly sorry for the actions that I had taken and sorry to my fellow students and every other school in Zambia for seeing such a horrible act. All I am asking for is your help in this very hard time when everyone seems to be against me. I have taken a step to seek professional counselling as part of my healing. It is also my hope and prayer that my friends and others who have directly or indirectly experienced trauma from this incidence seek counseling. In the next weeks and months, I will be spending most of my time with my psychotherapist, my family and friends. During this period I will be seeking help in every way possible. I believe God’s grace through Jesus Christ will be my source of strength.”

The apology is highly welcome. But things shouldn’t end there. And as Diana Ross sang, “Sorry doesn’t always make it right…” This a criminal act whose consequences go beyond Gawen, Chengelo Secondary School and the concerned parents. And students are not exempt from facing criminal charges under our criminal justice system. We have correctional facilities for juvenile offenders.

Jubulani and Mwila’s assault on Gawen is not a private or personal matter among themselves which should end with expulsions and apologies. This is an offence against the state, or society as a whole. That means that even though the assault was of one person, Gawen, by Jabulani and Mwila, this assault itself is considered an offense to everyone in Zambia. Accordingly, a crime against the state or the society as a whole is prosecuted by the state, and not the victim. However, the same conduct can result in both criminal and civil liability. The civil liability is for Gawen to pursue. And here, he can decide to forgive Jabulani and Mwila in line with the apology – the sorry.

Sorry, always sorry. What in the world can you buy with an apology? It is always so simple, and so complicating, to accept an apology. Empathy – the ability to identify with someone else’s suffering – is certainly a prerequisite for a genuine apology.
I’m sorry. Lips should breathe them out with ease! But nay, in barring up the way, “I’ll die first” are the words you say. Just say “I’m sorry.” It’s not a tongue twister. It does not need repeating multiple times. The phrase is simple and short, easy to articulate. And the last time we checked, it sounded just as good – if not better – in a whisper. So just say it; say “I’m sorry”.

Apologies require taking full responsibility. By the time most people say ‘I’m sorry’, it is already too late. Apology is pointless. Apologies are for when you forget something. Or bump into somebody. Apologies are for accidents. You can’t apologise for something you chose to do. That’s like apologising for being you.
We wish for them the wisdom to realize that forgiveness has nothing to do with an apology.

When the wound given is deep, the action to rectify needs to be from the heart, because the word ‘sorry’ is not enough to sew a cut so deep.
‘I’m sorry’ won’t fix what’s been broken. It can’t reverse time or undo the damage or change anything that happened. But a sincere, humble apology can serve to soften the sting and sometimes do a pretty good patch up job.
They say a sincere and warmly-expressed apology can produce the same effects as morphine on a suffering soul.

We are surprised that the police has not moved in to arrest and charge Jabulani and Mwila for assaulting Gawen. Or even to just warn and caution them! Why?
Do they think that this is a small private matter to be handled by the school management and the concerned parents? Did Gawen have to die for the police to move in? What message is this sending? What precedent are they setting? Is this really the right way to end this case?

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