13-year-old drowns on Makhanda construction site

Residents accuse municipality of negligence after Asanele Qomfo lost his life swimming in water from a damaged pipe

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Residents managed to drain some of the water from the trench after Asanele Qomfo drowned. Photo: Loyiso Dyongman.

A 13-year-old boy has drowned in a trench that flooded with water after a pipe was damaged during earth works by the Makana Municipality, according to residents.

Asanele Qomfo drowned on Saturday 25 September in Vergenoeg location. Resident Mandla Mahlasela said apparently a water pipe had been damaged when the trench was dug, the trench had filled with water and children had been swimming. Mahlasela said the municipality had failed to empty the trench or to post security guards.

“Instead, the negligent Makana Municipality just ignored the deep pool that had formed,” said Mahlasela.

Makana Municipality’s communications office did not respond to GroundUp’s questions. The family did not want to comment at this stage.

Provincial police spokesperson Colonel Pricilla Naidu confirmed the incident. “Police can confirm that on Saturday 25 September 2021 at about 14:30, the body of a 13-year-old boy was retrieved from a ditch/ trench filled with water on a construction site in Vergenoeg, Makhanda. It is alleged that the boy was swimming in the ditch with other children when he drowned. An inquest docket was opened for further investigations,” said Naidu.

Lungile Mxube, interim convenor of the Makana Citizens Forum, said the water had been more than 1.6 metres deep. He said the Forum, a new organisation that will contest the upcoming local government elections in the Makana Municipality, was working with the family to enlist attorneys to sue both the Makana Municipality and the contractor.

A resident who wanted to remain anonymous said municipal officials had come to the site two days after the drowning and had “placed a thin net” around the pool of water, again failing to drain the water or to post a security guard there. “It will be a miracle if further children do not drown in this pool in the next few days. You can’t just leave a trench like that knowing that there are kids who will go and play there.”

Makana Citizens Forum members tried to fill the trench but the ground was too hard. They dug channels and managed to drain about a metre of water from the hole.

Qomfo was a pupil at the Amasango Career School. “This is an absolute tragedy and devastating for the school,” said school founder and former principal Jane Bradshaw.

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TOPICS:  Government Health

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