'I've cried enough': Grieving Soweto dad remembers son who died in manhole

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Khayalethu Magadla's family, friends, teachers, schoolmates and the community gathered for his memorial service at Dlamini Park where he was last seen while playing with friends last month.
Khayalethu Magadla's family, friends, teachers, schoolmates and the community gathered for his memorial service at Dlamini Park where he was last seen while playing with friends last month.
Zandile Khumalo
  • Kholekile Magadla, the father of six-year-old Khayalethu who went missing after he fell into a manhole, says City of Joburg and police have failed him. 
  • On Friday, a memorial service was held in memory of Khayalethu.
  • Community members paid tribute to the young boy, saying he was a leader and a child of the people, while Action SA leader Herman Mashaba apologised for South Africa not doing enough to protect children.

“I have been failed by the police and by our own municipality. Today I want Khaya to be the one that corrects all the wrongs.”

So said Kholekile Magadla on Friday at the memorial service of his son Khayalethu, as he detailed the events that transpired after the boy fell into a manhole in Soweto on 12 June while playing with friends at a nearby park.

“I saw them all try to save my son.

"I heard them say ‘go in, save him, dive in’. I recall saying 'allow me to go in and save my son' but they said it was not allowed,” said Magadla.

He said the days of the search had left left him depressed as he patiently waited  for the return of his son. 

“I never slept, how could I have, my six-year-old was missing. I would burn the tyre and just sit there hoping and waiting.

"The one time I could sleep was when I was drugged with pills. I heard them speaking of the kilometres they have covered but everything sounded like I was at a racetrack, running numbers."

Magadla expressed how the municipality, police, and City of Joburg had failed him during the search, sharing that his community was what held him in comfort as he went through one of the toughest times.

He said City of Joburg closed the manhole the very same day they discovered his son had fallen inside.

ALSO READ | 'Sense of relief' and closure for Khayalethu Magadla's family now that body was found

“They closed that hole where my son had fell in, as though they were burying him.

“When the day was done, I saw them all packed their things and left the scene like nothing was going on. I felt pain, I was broken,” he said.

Magadla also said he shared his pain with his community that helped him from day one after his son had disappeared. 

“Community members in Dlamini left their comfortable beds to help me search for my son. I am standing here today because the community covered me with the same blanket that we shared in pain.”  

Magadla said things in Dlamini never get done. He said they were constantly neglected and brought to suffering by the municipality that he said failed them constantly. 

He said:

I have cried enough, today I am fighting, today Khaya will be the one to fix what is wrong in the community.

After Magadla's words, tributes kept flowing from residents who said in Khayalethu they'd lost one of a kind. They said he was a leader and had shown potential of being president.

"He has led us to light, as his father said. Yes, it hurts and yes, we are crying but he has led,” said family relative Veli Mthethwa.

Former Johannesburg mayor and Action SA president Herman Mashaba echoed Magadla’s sentiments of being failed by the municipality and police, saying destruction of infrastructure in South Africa was robbing children of their future. 

"I apologise for not doing enough as a country, but the death of your child will serve as a monument to some of us that we will never experience such a tragedy again,” he said.

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