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Winterveldt community says final goodbyes to pupils

Precious Msiza, Mbali Mahlangu and their friend Sibongile Mahleya were laid to rest today

Ema Primary School in Winterveldt, north of Pretoria. Picture: Christa Eybers/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi says as a father, he can only imagine the pain the families of the three young Winterveldt girls are going through after the pupils were allegedly poisoned at school.

Precious Msiza, Mbali Mahlangu and their friend Sibongile Mahleya were laid to rest today.

They died exactly a week ago at a local clinic after falling ill at the Ema Primary School, north of Johannesburg.

It was initially thought the pupils ate food provided by the Basic Education Department's feeding scheme but preliminary investigations have shown that was not the case.

A moving poem was read out by 12-year-old Rashidah Mlazi, reflecting on how much the trio will be missed.

"You are a part of us and we are a part of you. When you died, a part of us died too."

Lesufi says the incident has affected him deeply.

"It affects my emotions terribly. I am a father, so imagine if suddenly there are no young ones in the house to play with."

A guard of honour was formed by classmates while the three hearses with the names of the deceased on their number plates left the community hall.

Earlier, Tshwane Mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa said schools are supposed to be places of safety for pupils.

Ramokgopa said it's a sad day, not only for the family but for the entire community.

Meanwhile, the families say they still don't have any answers about how the girls died.