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

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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

A shoe and some of the clothes he was wearing. If they can’t find his body, they at least want some of these items to get some closure. The Magadla family in Dlamini Soweto still feels like they are living in a nightmare and they are waiting for someone to come wake them from this awful dream they are in.

On 12 June they went to church, and their two young boys - who are siblings - were at home playing in the yard. The boys then decided to go play with their friends at the park just down the road from their home.

And five-year-old Khayalethu Magadla didn’t come home. His parents went to open a case at the Moroka Police Station on the same Sunday he disappeared. It was after they went to report him missing at school that they started to get the whole story.

Little Khayalethu fell into an open manhole, just days before his sixth birthday.

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Family spokesperson and uncle to the missing boy Veli Mthethwa tells Drum the past twelve days have been hell as the search for him continues. He says as a family they are currently not coping because they haven’t found anything that will lead them to where Khayalethu is.

“As a family we need something that will lead us close to getting some form of closure, an item or something because we have accepted that the child might not be alive given the days that have passed.

"If we can get his body or something, that will get us the closure that we need, because at the moment we are hurting and we can’t do anything about it.”

He says he was not around when the incident took place but he heard how Khayalethu fell into the sewer manhole that they have been reporting to the municipality for the past two years because it is in the park and kids play there.

“We were told that there were four of them playing in the park. There was a piece of wood-like box that covered the manhole, the kids used that as a bridge, Khayalethu was the last one and the wood was weak then because it was stepped on multiple times, and that is how he fell inside the hole that has running sewage water,” Veli says.

Veli says the kids kept quiet about the incident until the teachers questioned them, and they were led to the manhole at the park.

“We took the kids one by one so that we can be sure what they are saying is true and they said the same story and both kids took us to the same place,” he tells Drum.

“We are impressed with the work that the Joburg Water is doing, and they even closed the hole. They are still searching and they brought in a powerful team that is handling this case with care and keeping us updated with everything related to what our family asked for. The search is continuing and that is where our energy and focus is currently at,” he says.

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Both parents of the boy are still coming to terms with this, and the father is not taking the news well. “We are emotional because Khaya was the light in our lives,” he says.

“He was a chubby young boy with a lisp and very talkative. We plant just in front of our yard and he would always come out to the garden with his grandfather and would mimic everything his grandfather does, even the mannerisms of how his grandfather behaves towards the neighbours.

"Khaya adapted those and he was a fun child.

"We are saddened by this and hope that we will get assistance and counselling and also extend that counselling to his friends and classmates,” he says.

Veli says he is worried about the emotional state of Khaya’s mother and says his dad comes out of the house once in a while, but the parents are not doing well. The more people come to their home, and they have to retell the story, the more you can see that they are not coping.

He says they are staying in prayer and hope that they will get something.

“The most important thing at this moment is getting closure, as a family. We have received so much support from the community and some government officials have come to show support," Veli says.

"Sadly, it took our child’s experience for the municipality to take action and close that hole and that will always be a reminder to the family.” 

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