Home News Pit where boy drowned still a ‘death trap’

Pit where boy drowned still a ‘death trap’

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Two months after 11-year-old Onkarabetse Thole drowned in an uncovered stormwater canal between Gogga pump station and Riemvasmaak in Galeshewe, the treacherous pit, which is still filled with water, has not been cordoned off yet.

A delegation from the Public Protector’s Office, Sol Plaatje Municipality and local government paid a visit to the site where Onkarabetse Thole, 11, drowned in a water-filled pit. Picture: Soraya Crowie

TWO MONTHS after 11-year-old Onkarabetse Thole drowned in an uncovered stormwater canal between Gogga pump station and Riemvasmaak in Galeshewe, the treacherous pit, which is still filled with water, has not been cordoned off yet.

Onkarabetse had accompanied his older brother and a group of friends to gather wood when he decided to cool off in the water on September 11.

His brother, Mosimanegape Mocholo, tried to save him, but Onkarabetse apparently pushed him away to prevent him from also drowning.

Onkarabetse’s father, Thapelo Thole, stated that they were seeking damages amounting to R10 million due to the “negligence” of Sol Plaatje Municipality.

“The hole is still leaking and it cannot be attributed to rainwater. Up until today, there are no danger signs to warn the community. How many more children must die before precautions are taken?”

Thole handed receipts of the funeral expenses to Sol Plaatje executive mayor Kagisho Sonyoni after the family was promised that the municipality would cover the costs.

“We were told that Onkarabetse would be given a pauper’s funeral so we decided to take matters into our own hands. All we got from Sol Plaatje were some cabbages, maize meal and chicken. We decided to refer the matter to the public protector … not out of anger but because we do not want a repeat of any more children drowning.

“Our family has been further traumatised by the treatment that we received from Sol Plaatje Municipality.”

Acting Public Protector Kholeka Gcaleka visited the bereaved family in Kimberley this week. Picture: Soraya Crowie

Thole was also concerned that Onkarabetse’s siblings were blaming Mocholo for their brother’s death.

“We had to separate the children because of the constant fighting. Onkarabetse’s little sister keeps running to the site where her brother died. I am worried that Mocholo might turn to drugs because he feels guilty for taking his brother to the hole.”

Onkarabetse’s mother, Miriam Thole, added that she had lost her appetite and was surviving on “a cup of tea and water”.

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“I cannot eat and feel sick all the time. I am taking care of our five children – the youngest of which is three years old. Up until today, none of us have received any counselling. I worry the whole time and do not feel that my children are safe to play outside after what happened.”

Acting Public Protector Kholeka Gcaleka and Sol Plaatje executive mayor Kagisho Sonyoni. Picture: Soraya Crowie

Sonyoni apologised to the family for the tragedy.

“I am deeply sorry over what happened and we do not want to see another incident of this sort. We are going to compensate the family,” he said.

Sonyoni promised that the area would be closed off and danger signs would be erected around the site once the pipeline had been repaired.

He indicated that the water that had accumulated inside the pit was “rainwater”.

“The problem has been permanently fixed.”

He pointed out that farmers in the area damaged the pipes in order to gain access to water.

“The area is too large to close off access to the community.”

Sonyoni committed to ensuring that a social worker provided the family with the necessary support.

The deputy director of Water and Sanitation at Sol Plaatje Municipality, Zughdi Adikary, stated that it would take one month to close up the hole.

“The water has to be drained and a chamber built for the installation of a scour valve before it is closed up.”

The pit where 11-year-old Onkarabetse Thole drowned is still uncovered two months after his death. Picture: Soraya Crowie

Acting Public Protector Kholeka Gcaleka, who visited the bereaved family this week, highlighted the need to provide Onkarabetse’s brother, siblings and family members with psycho-social support.

“They must be traumatised. The hole poses a danger to the community and it must be immediately secured to prevent further loss of life,” said Gcaleka.

She assured the family that the investigation into the drowning was at an advanced stage.

Gcaleka advised that a mediator be appointed to assist the family with dealing with the trauma.

Provincial public protector representative Mlungisi Khanyi, the MEC for Roads and Public Works, Fufe Makatong, the acting public protector, advocate Kholeka Gcaleka, and Sol Plaatje executive mayor Kagisho Sonyoni visit the site. Picture: Soraya Crowie
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