Several children from Galeshewe have revealed that they used to get free swimming lessons from a “volunteer” at the wastewater stream near Gogga Pump Station where 17-year-old Bonakle Magugwana drowned on Sunday, October 31.
SEVERAL children from Galeshewe have revealed that they used to get free swimming lessons from a “volunteer” at the wastewater stream near Gogga Pump Station where 17-year-old Bonakle Magugwana drowned on Sunday, October 31.
The children pointed out that there is no swimming pool in this part of Galeshewe where they live and they cannot afford to pay the entrance fee in town or for the pool next to the social centre.
The Galeshewe police have meanwhile opened an inquest docket following the drowning of Bonakle.
Police spokesperson Captain Bashoabile Kale said that Bonakle and a group of friends were apparently cooling off in a pool created by the wastewater stream when he slipped into a deeper part of the pool and started struggling and drowning.
According to Bonakle’s friends, they managed to pull him out of the water and tried to resuscitate him, but they could not.
The boys alerted adults at a nearby house, who contacted the police.
Kale said that upon the arrival of the police Search and Rescue unit, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) was performed on Bonakle, but the efforts to resuscitate the teen were unsuccessful.
“The deceased was identified by the family,” said Kale.
It is believed that the wastewater streams are monitored by the Sol Plaatje Municipality. They channel water to the nearby veld, close to the R31.
The channels have grown wider over the years after collapses during the rainy season.
A broken pipe is leaking sewage into the streams.
Galeshewe station commander Brigadier Belinda Rikhotso urged the public to refrain from swimming in dongas and streams as they do not know how deep the water is.
Residents staying in the vicinity of the stormwater channels have meanwhile said that “many drownings” have occurred in the area as children often want to swim in the streams.
Several adults from the nearby suburb of Retswelele said that it is a “challenge” to monitor the children’s movement in the area.
They called on the municipality to erect a fence around the area to prevent further drownings.
According to one of the boys who witnessed Sunday’s incident, he and Bonakle had both started frequenting the area when the stream was smaller.
He said that a “volunteer” also used to frequent the stream and gave them swimming lessons out of concern that they might drown.
The 12-year-old boy explained that he lives in No 5, where there are no swimming pools nearby.
“Even if we walked all the way to Galeshewe we were sometimes denied access because there were too many children or because we had to pay an entrance fee.
“That is why my friends and I would use the opportunity when we visited my mom, who stays nearby, to swim in the stream,” said the boy.
“Our parents were not aware of this,” he added.
“We were only required to bring along empty cooldrink bottles to strap around our waist before starting our swimming lessons. The volunteer taught us how to paddle and we did not have to pay him anything.
“But back then, the donga was not that big and was less dangerous.
“Our teacher does not come anymore.”
A teenage girl said that she too used to learn to swim at the streams, until they grew wider and more dangerous.
She said she stayed too far from the “proper” swimming pools and her parents could not afford to pay for swimming lessons.
Bonakle’s family, who live in Tshwene Extension, Galeshewe, said that they are devastated.
They added that they were shocked to learn that their child had frequented the streams, as they were not aware of this.
Bonakle’s aunt, Yvonne Magugwana, said that the teenager was a vigilant person and was capable of swimming.
The family claimed that the municipality had failed the local children and the community by not creating awareness of the dangerous area by putting up danger signs and fencing it off.
The Sol Plaatje Municipality expressed its condolences for the life lost.
Municipal spokesperson Sello Matsie said the channel is a natural flow that is the result of weathered terrain.
“We are saddened by the loss of life. As the matter will definitely be investigated as an inquest, we will provide full co-operation should the need arise and can’t comment further,” said Matsie.