Deaths of 4 children in Nyanga highlight desperate need for playing facilities, says councillor

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Construction workers secure the place where four boys died.
Construction workers secure the place where four boys died.
Anele Mfazwe
  • The families of the four children who died when a sandbank collapsed on them in Nyanga, Cape Town, had the grim task of identifying their bodies on Tuesday.  
  • The bodies of three children were recovered on Monday, while another was found in the early hours of Tuesday.  
  • However, a councillor is aggrieved by Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato's reported comments that they should have been playing in a park. 

The families of four children who died when a sandbank collapsed on them while they were playing near a bridge in Nyanga, Cape Town, had the grim task of identifying their bodies on Tuesday.  

Ward councillor Khaya Yozi said they had to go to the Salt River mortuary for the formal identifications.

Yozi and community leaders have formed a protective shield around the family so that they are not flooded with media queries as they grieve. 

Yozi said the children were not aware of the extent of the danger.

He said the land under the bridge, where they died, was understood to belong to the SA National Roads Agency.

Yozi added the children were playing in a hole under the bridge which was dug by people extracting sand to compact the foundations of shacks.  

However, since the deaths, another issue has arisen: Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato's reported comments that the children should not have been playing there. 

He issued a statement to express his sorrow at the deaths of the children, understood to be between the ages of 11 and 13. 

READ | Body of fourth child trapped underground found in Cape Town

"What started as a moment of happiness through children playing outside, quickly became a tragedy after the sandbank collapsed," said Plato. 

"I wish to extend my deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of all four victims. The past year has shown us how fragile life is and this incident reminds us of the uncertainty of life. Our thoughts are with their families during this time of grief," he added.

However, comments at the scene reported by a Daily Voice video have upset the parents and residents.

In the interview, Plato said the children could have been playing in parks and on sports fields, but these seemed to be used mostly by adults playing football, and this would have to be rectified. 

Asked for clarity, City of Cape Town mayoral media officer Lyndon Khan said: "As quoted in the article, Mayor Dan Plato said there are sports fields nearby that could be used for recreation purposes."

Plato told eNCA the tragedy could have been avoided if people did not remove the sand from under the bridge.

He said the situation regarding the hole under the bridge should have been detected. 

However, Yozi added this was not as straight forward as it seemed, with not nearly enough facilities needed to accommodate the thousands of children in the community.

He said sports fields were closed because of Covid-19 Disaster Management Act regulations.

Training that Yozi arranges to help children stay fit and occupied, revealed the demand is so high that in Lusaka there are 3 000 who want to join in.

He said Miller's Camp had 19 football teams and the children needed somewhere to play soccer.

They even stopped going to the only library in Nyanga because they were being robbed on the way.

"It was reckless of the mayor to say that there are facilities," Yozi added. ''I am taken aback by the statement that we have enough facilities. We do not have enough facilities."

As a last resort, children were playing in open spaces next to the N2, he said.

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