'It is killing our kids': Boy, 11, becomes 8th person this year to drown in Eastern Cape town's canal

The Addo canal has claimed eight lives this year. (Mkhuseli Sizani, GroundUp)
The Addo canal has claimed eight lives this year. (Mkhuseli Sizani, GroundUp)

Police divers have found the body of 11-year-old Kirkwood boy Olwenene Maqanda after he was swept away in a canal. The search had resumed on Wednesday after it was called off on Tuesday due to a strong current, GroundUp reported.

"The body of the… missing child was recovered this morning, 30 October 2019, at about 08:00 in Moses Mabhida canal close to Chris Hani Road, Kirkwood," Colonel Sibongile Soci said.

This is the eighth drowning in the canal this year, according to provincial police spokesperson Brigadier Thembinkosi Kinana.

Last month, two five-year-old boys drowned in Aqua Park, Kirkwood, apparently while trying to get their ball from the canal.

Kinana said it seemed Olwenene had been collecting oranges that had fallen off the trees with friends on Sunday.

"They were chased from the area and he allegedly lost his balance and fell in the water at about 13:20 and drowned."

The open canal is used by mostly citrus farmers and the Nelson Mandela Bay and Sundays River Valley municipalities.

On Tuesday, Olwenene’s grandfather Leku Links told GroundUp that he had been going to the canal every day to look for his grandson’s body.

"I last saw my grandson on Sunday at 9:00 when he asked me to give him another four chickens in order to breed them. I agreed to give him the chickens. But by 13:00 some of his friends arrived at their home crying.

"They were a group of about ten and they went to the dam on one of the farms. But they were chased away. My grandson managed to escape and passed through the fence.

"Unfortunately, he slipped into the open canal. His friends tried to rescue him by throwing tree branches to hold on.

'It is killing our kids'

"They say he tried to hold on. They even threw him empty soft drink bottles, but the water was too strong and swept him away. We rushed immediately to the scene and called the cops. But we could not find him," said Links.

He said the children were between the ages of five and 13.

"My son raised this boy alone. He is very traumatised, just like me… We appeal to the government to close this water canal with strong netting because it is killing our kids," Links said.

Sundays River Valley municipal manager Sydney Fadi told GroundUp in March 2018 that the swimming pools in Kirkwood, which were seldom used, would be "relocated" to Moses Mabhida township, "nearer the residents". But this and other promises made at the time have not been kept.

David Khonzani, a community leader for the Rural Development and Sports Trust, told GroundUp: "We don't know how many lives must be lost before our municipality can do something about this deadly canal… Every year we know our people will drown in this canal, especially the kids."

Sundays River Valley Municipality spokesperson Zusiphe Mtirara said: "The canals were enclosed, but we have a problem of community members who continue to endanger communities by stealing the fencing."

"The canals do not belong to the municipality, but to the Department of Water and Sanitation. We have, however, been working tirelessly to educate residents about the dangers of the canals."

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