A UNIVERSITY of KwaZulu-Natal student drowned in Midmar Dam on Saturday.
Sizophila Mahlobo (24), a keen sportsman who was chairperson of the university’s athletics club, drowned on Saturday afternoon when he and some friends swam to retrieve their canoe.
He was declared dead on scene.
Mahlobo, of Esikhawini, near Empangeni, was pursuing a Master of Science degree in Hydrology at the Pietermaritzburg campus, where his research interest was water quality. ER24 spokesperson Werner Vermaak, said paramedics and members of the SAPS search and rescue worked to recover Mahlobo’s body. “Bystanders on the scene explained to emergency workers that they swam out to retrieve a canoe [and then] noticed one of their friends were missing.”
He said the circumstances surrounding the incident would be investigated by police.
Friends and colleagues said Mahlobo was a long-distance runner for UKZN’s athletics club. He was the club’s treasurer before he was made chairperson this year.
Andrew Stewart, the vice chairperson of the athletics club, said he had heard of the incident on Saturday via UKZN’s sports union. He said Mahlobo had nominated him last year to be vice chairperson.
“I would never have accepted it if not for him. He was by far the best leader I’d seen; I was always impressed by the way he dealt with things.
“He was quite a sportsman, and he had a lot of time for people. He was a very organised leader.”
Blessing Zondi, a friend of Mahlobo’s of six years, said he was a hard-working person who was always “determined to see the grass grow”.
“He was a very cool guy, very talkative and always laughing. He was a bit naughty but he was honest.” A tribute on the athletics club’s official Instagram page said: “The country has lost a person that had an opportunity to contribute to one of our scarce skills areas. Ironically, it seems Phila’s journey and the aquatic side were intertwined, for he succumbed to death while canoeing at the Midmar Dam.
“We will miss you on the road comrade, indeed we will feel the pain of running down kilometers without you around. A life well lived! Phumule ngoxolo mfethu (rest in peace, brother.)” Attempts to contact Mahlobo’s family were unsuccessful yesterday.
UKZN said it was waiting for a full report of the circumstances.
It sent condolences to his family and team-mates.