It has been three days since a six-year-old boy went missing after allegedly falling into a manhole in Orange Farm in Johannesburg south.
The search was still on for Khomanani Mawa, who fell into the manhole not far from his house on Sunday afternoon.
Councillor Makhosazana Ndlela from ward 131 in Orange Farm said her only concern was finding the missing child.
“At this point, we can’t even say if he is still alive,” she said.
Ndlela has revisited the search site every day since the incident on Sunday.
“On Monday when I went to the site the manholes were closed. But they were open again today on Tuesday,” Ndlela said.
She said the community was angry about the incident.
“We don’t know who opened the manhole,” she said.
“There were a lot of members of the community who came out in support, but the family is devastated.”
Ndlela thanked the City of Joburg and Emfeleni municipality for working together to find the child.
Michael Shackleton, Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow MEC for community safety, said the disappearance of Mawa was terrible.
“Every second lost creates more fear that the child has not survived,” Shackleton said.
He said it must be determined exactly how this happened to ensure it never occurs again. Shackleton said it was unacceptable that, in 2021, in a modern society, we were still dealing with problems like this.
“Surely it still amounts to negligence on the part of the municipality,” he said.
Shackleton said if a manhole cover was stolen, the municipality should have a system in place to replace it within a reasonable time to avoid loss of life and damage to vehicles.
Linda Mashigo, spokesperson for the City of Tshwane, said it was not as simple as that.
“In as much as city officials are on the lookout for absent or broken grates and/or manholes, it is important that the municipality is alerted about these by members of the community,” Mashigo said.
Mashigo said damaged ground level grates and manholes are a hazard because they can collapse if you walk or cycle over them.
“This means someone could fall into or trip over the drain and get injured,” said Mashigo.
Public interest attorney Richard Spoor said what happened to Mawa was a known danger.
“It often happens that children drown in pits, ditches and open manholes,” Spoor said.
Spoor referred to the incident where Michael Komape, 5, drowned in a pit toilet at his school in Chebeng Village in Polokwane in 2014. Spoor said any open water was dangerous for small children.
“Everyone knows it and should take all reasonable steps to prevent it.”
Spoor said either the municipality or Joburg Water was legally liable.
“If they say they were not aware of it, they will have to prove that they inspected the manhole regularly,” he said.
Johannesburg Water spokesperson Eleanor Mavimbela said yesterday an update will be released soon.