South Africa, Pretoria – Hammanskraal family in shock after their son drowned in a flooded trench left unattended by a contractor hired by the City of Tshwane.
The death of Tshiamo Hleza, 9, was reported in the wake of the fatalities of three boys who drowned while swimming in a trench on Saturday in the township.
The latest tragic incident took place on Monday at about 10 am in Extension 10, when two boys were washing their hands with water from the trench and slipped inside.
One of them was luckily rescued by resident Buti Mkhabela, who lives a stone’s throw from the scene.
The survivor was rushed to a local hospital, where he was admitted for medical treatment.
Mkhabela ran to the trench upon hearing someone screaming for help.
“The one who survived was struggling to get out of the water when I got there.
“The one who died was trapped in mud inside the trench, and it was difficult to reach out to him. When I got there the one who is in the hospital was trying hard to rescue his friend,” he said.
The emergency services personnel who were called in arrived quickly and certified one of the children dead.
The dead boy’s mother, Maria Hleza, was too distraught to speak to the Pretoria News yesterday.
Hleza’s husband Sonnyboy Malaka, who was also visibly grief-stricken, said his wife had been in bed since she received news of the death of her son.
Malaka was away when his son left home, accompanied by one of the local boys.
His sister Dimakatso Hleza said the family was told about the incident soon after it happened, and she went to the scene.
However, she said, her mother was too weak to go there and was still unable to speak about it.
“We are deeply hurt by the death of my brother. Maybe if they had filled the trench on time my brother would still be alive.
“Maybe if they had put up danger barriers the children would not have fallen into the trench,” said Dimakatso.
She remembered her younger brother, who was in Grade 3, as a quiet person and said he was fond of dancing.
“He wanted to be a musician. He liked marimba music too much,” she said.
Mayor Randall Williams blamed an external contractor who was working on a housing project for the City, saying legal action would be taken against those responsible.
“Upon arrival at the scene it was discovered that the site had not been adequately secured, nor were there barriers in place.
“I consider this to be negligence on the contractor’s part as it is clear the contractor did not take the necessary precautions to ensure that there was adequate access control to the site,” Williams said.
He expressed his deepest condolences to the affected family for their tragic loss.
“Words cannot convey the sadness and grief which they must be feeling at the loss of this young boy. May peace and comfort find them,” Williams said.
Meanwhile, MMC for Community Safety and Emergency Services, Karen Meyer, said she had written to Acting Health MEC Jacob Mamabolo requesting answers on the alleged faulty equipment used at the drowning incident on Saturday.
“This comes following allegations by the community that the Gauteng Provincial Ambulance Service, which were the first to arrive on the scene, showed up with defective equipment,” Meyer said.