'I want my son back home dead or alive' - search continues for missing 6-year-old Gauteng boy

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Officials searching for Khomanani Mahwa.
Officials searching for Khomanani Mahwa.
Ntwaagae Seleka
  • An Orange Farm family remains hopeful that they will find their 6-year-old son.
  • Khomanani Mahwa fell into a manhole on Sunday morning.
  • His father has begged authorities to help him find his son and bring him back home.

"I want my son back home dead or alive."

These were the words of an Orange Farm father whose 6-year-old son went missing on Sunday.

Khomanani Elias Mahwa and two friends were last seen playing near three open manholes in Orange Farm Extension 3 on Sunday afternoon.

He fell inside one of the open manholes about 20 metres from his home.

Khomanani Elias Mahwa
Khomanani Elias Mahwa, 6, fell into a manhole and disappeared.

Surprise Makhense said children in the area play in the vicinity of the open manholes daily.

"It was around 16:00 when my elder brother arrived, wet and screaming that my son had fallen into a sewage manhole behind our home. After the flowing sewage swallowed Khomanani, my brother said he then dived inside, hoping to find him, [ but] my son was gone.

"I ran to the manhole, and there was no sign of Khomanani. My other elder also dived inside the manhole, looking for my child. I am losing hope that he will be found alive. All I want is to see my son back home dead or alive," Makhense said.

After the child went missing, residents launched a search and authorities were informed.

"I am trying to be strong although it is difficult. I can't sleep at night knowing that my first-born child is drowning and flowing with excrement. My wife can't cope. I am trying to comfort her as hours and days pass without Khomanani coming back.

Makhense added:

I plead with authorities to speed up their search before it is too late. If only those manholes were closed, my son would be playing here with his siblings.

Overwhelmed with emotion, he said he welcomed all messages of support, but added that the only thing he wanted to see was his son.

"I appreciate the support and help from both the City of Johannesburg and Emfuleni municipalities in finding my son. If only I had powers and the skill, I would have swum inside the manhole searching for my son.

Makhense said:

I want Khomanani back home dead or alive to find closure. Not knowing where he is pains me even further.

The City of Johannesburg is investigating why the manholes were open and why they were not cordoned off to ensure that children and people did not get closer to them.

Member of the Mayoral Committee for Community Development Margaret Arnolds said: "Manhole tops are being stolen and sold for scrap. Anywhere within our city, our manholes are being stolen. According to the family, that manhole has been open for a while now.

READ | Boy, 10, drowns in uncovered manhole in Free State

"When I arrived there on Monday, it was closed. We have brought our resources and experts in [to find] the little boy. We are worried that there is a family and parents who are traumatised, and we must ensure that their child is found."

By Tuesday evening, Emfuleni and City of Johannesburg officials as well as the police's K9 unit members, searched for Khomanani in Evaton, about three kilometres away from where he had disappeared.

Search for Khomanani Mahwa
Officials searching for Khomanani Mahwa,6, who fell into a sewer manhole.

Emfuleni Mayor Reverend Gift Moerane said they had disabled some of their sewer pipes in Evaton, pushing water into the streams in the hope that they would find Khomanani.

"We hope that after flushing out the sewage, experts would walk into the stream hoping that the body is lying somewhere in the reeds or debris. With our cash-strapped situation and limited recourses, we have hired machinery to assist in the search. We can't compare life with rands and cents. We are more concerned about the family that is in pain looking for their son.

"It is not a matter of how much. It is a matter of how we can help each other when one is in trouble. As a father and leader of society, I understand how that family feels. I can feel their excruciating pain and expectations of finding their child," Moerane said.

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