'I have a hole in my heart' - Khayalethu's father hopes the family can now start healing

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The manhole little Khaya Magadla fell into has since been closed.
The manhole little Khaya Magadla fell into has since been closed.
Snazo Notho

The Magadla family is overwhelmed by multiple emotions. On the one hand, they are full of sadness after the body of their missing child was recovered in the Eldorado Park Cemetery, about 20 days after he went missing.

On the other hand, they are filled with relief that his body has finally been found and now they can start healing and finding closure.

Khayalethu Magadla went missing while playing with friends and a cousin in a nearby park. He fell into an open manhole.

He was a fun, bubbly loving boy and his family is saddened by the fact that they lost him in this manner.

The last memory the Magadla family has of their boy is when he came to his dad after he parked the car in the open space opposite their home. He asked for money to go buy “Ulwimi” Candy.

“He came running to me and asked for money to go buy candy. I had R2 and two 1 rands. I tried to think how I can share it equally amongst them but it was impossible he ended up taking the R2, I gave the 1 rand to the friends and lucky enough I got another R2 and gave it to his cousins. That is the last time I saw my baby boy,” says his father, Kholekile Magadla.

Kholekile, from Dlamini 1 in Soweto tells Drum that he has mixed emotions. As a father he never thought he would have to deal with such an experience and even though joy is not the actual feeling that can explain how he feels, he’s glad they can find closure.

Read more | ‘I didn’t know how to break the news to the kids,’ says Khaya’s Grade R class teacher

He says he is happy they got the body because they have been praying for that and he’s sad that he lost a son who brought so much joy in his life.

“I am relieved even though I won’t use the word happy because my son left me, but I am happy that he was found. I have a hole in my heart and it will take for me to recover from losing my child.”

He says he was sitting outside when the people from EMS came. He thought they came to update the family because they have been searching and at some point, they stopped the search. Khayalethu's body was recovered from the splitter chamber on the first manhole near the swamp situated at Eldorado Park Waste Plant.

The sorrowful father says it was around past 12 to 1pm.

“The people from EMS came to the house while I was sitting outside. I thought they came to report on how far they are with the search like they normally do when they are searching. At some point, they stopped looking. But we spoke to them about continuing with the search after I complained and asked how they are stopping the search when we haven’t found the child, and they promised me that they will never stop searching until they found my boy,” he tells Drum.

“They called me and asked if I could come with them so that I can identify the body of a child that they found at Eldorado Park. When I arrived there, the forensic people were on site. I waited until they were done. I went in and found out that it is our boy.

"He still had his clothes – a navy blue hoodie with orange pockets and the tracksuit paints, and his shoes were still on. I saw his face, he was still fresh and chubby, he was burnt by acid a bit on his face,” he says.

Kholekile says it pains the family that Khaya went missing a week before his birthday, but he is thankful to Nhlanhla Lux who bought his missing son a birthday cake and remembered Khaya on his special day.

“This happened after the Jozi FM candlelight prayer that took place on Thursday and I would like to thank God and everyone who has been praying for our family. I thank God for answering my prayers because this has been hurting our family.”

Read more | 'We need his body or even his clothes for closure' - Khayalethu Magadla's family holds on to hope

It has been an extremely painful 20 days for the family since the search began for the six-year-old Khayalethu. The manhole he fell into while playing with his cousin and two other friends had been reported to the municipality two years ago, the family said recently.

The boys were playing at the park, and there was a wood-like box that covered the manhole, and the kids often used that as a bridge. Khayalethu was the last one to cross and the wood was weak then and he fell into the whole, which has running sewage water.

Khayalethu Magadla will be laid to rest in the Eastern Cape next week.

Kholekile says he is deeply hurt, and now he’s worried about the other children in his area. "Where will it ever be safe for them to play?"

He makes an example of the fact that while the municipality was searching for Khaya they were digging holes and they left them like that.

“The schools are closed, kids are not going to school and we have holes that are not closed. There are ten feet holes, and what if kids slip and fall inside? That is another danger.

"This just opens my wound because had they fixed that manhole when it was reported, a lot would’ve been avoided. Seeing these current holes traumatizes me because kids are not safe,” he says.

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