Search for body of six-year-old Soweto child continues, Johannesburg
As the search for missing Khaya Magadla resumed on Thursday, Johannesburg Mayor Mpho Phalatse said that they suspected that theft and vandalism of the city’s infrastructure could be the reason a manhole near the park where Magadla was last seen was left uncovered. The six-year-old from Dlamini, Soweto, fell into an open manhole on Sunday, 12 June 2022, while playing with friends. While chances of finding him alive were said to be slim, police divers, rescuers, paramedics and municipal workers have been hard at work to try to find him.
The search reached its third day on Wednesday as officials probed a sewer split chamber in Klipspruit that could be the last hope for rescuers to find the little boy. The chamber situated near the Avalon Cemetery is the central point where all sewage and debris flows to. There officials were hopeful they will make progress. Johannesburg Water officials used a jet vacuuming truck to suck out debris and pick up large objects. A drone was used to survey land at a nearby river.
Johannesburg Emergency Services spokesperson Robert Mulaudzi said the area was possibly the last place the boy’s body might be recovered. “Before the water gets into the plant, there is a net that sifts all the debris and that is what they are sucking out. If we cannot find him here at the chamber we will move towards the net,” he said. “Because all the sewer water flows here our greatest chance of recovering his body lies here.”
Malaudzi said in the event that Khayalethu’s body was not recovered, teams would have to go back to the drawing board and revisit all the places they searched before, including where he fell. “The promise that we would find the boy’s body will be fulfilled. If it needs be, we will revisit all the other manholes again.”
Back at the Eco Park in Dlamini Street, about 10km away where Khayalethu fell, residents have been camping, monitoring children coming to play as the manholes remained open. Children below the age of 12 were turned away by concerned residents who said they were no longer comfortable with children playing there.
Mayor Phalatse and several members of her mayoral council visited the boy’s family on Wednesday night to offer their support.
Phalatse said that they’d heard from Dlamini residents that the manhole that Magadla fell into had been reported to authorities but the city had no record of this. "The system that Joburg Water uses does not have these reports. We will be investigating to find out who they were reported to. Perhaps they were reported to an individual who didn’t pass on the message," the mayor said.
She said that there were over 1,3 million manholes along the city’s 12 000-kilometre sewer system and because of their metal covers, they were vulnerable to the widespread vandalism targeting the city’s infrastructure. "We are using alternative means to close the manholes. We are avoiding metal because of the street value that causes these kinds of occurrences. We are concerned about the safety of our children. In terms of an overhaul, it will be incremental, focusing on where we need to replace lost or stolen manholes,” she said.
Meanwhile, on day four of operations, rescue teams are on Thursday expected to focus the search at the Olifantsvlei water treatment plant.
Sources: ENCA, The Sowetan