Thomas Bokaba appointed to investigate drowning of 2 boys in quarry near Mamelodi

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The water-filled quarry in the quarry in Kopanong Pienaarspoort informal settlement near Mamelodi where two young boys drowned.
The water-filled quarry in the quarry in Kopanong Pienaarspoort informal settlement near Mamelodi where two young boys drowned.
News24/Alex Mitchley
  • The Gauteng government is investigating the drowning of two boys in Mamelodi.
  • They drowned in a water-filled quarry at a unfenced construction site. 
  • Senior counsel advocate Thomas Bokaba has been appointed to establish the facts, failings of the department and contractor and if anyone can be held liable. 

The Gauteng Department of Roads and Transport has appointed advocate Thomas Bokaba to investigate the drowning of two young boys in a quarry near Mamelodi in Pretoria last weekend.

Seven-year-old Siyabonga Mabila and four-year-old Laurence Thwenu died after taking a swim on Saturday afternoon in the water-filled quarry that had been excavated by contractors working on roads in the area.

According to the family, the two boys were out playing and must have headed towards the quarry in Kopanong Pienaarspoort informal settlement at around 14:30 to take a swim.

About an hour later, the family was notified the boys were missing and their clothes and shoes had been found at the quarry. Residents searched to no avail and the bodies of Siyabonga and Laurence were later discovered in the quarry by police search and rescue teams.

Siyabonga Mabila
Seven-year-old Siyabonga Mabila, who drowned in a waterfilled quarry at an informal settlement near Mamelodi.
Laurence Thwenu
Four-year-old Laurence Thwenu, who drowned in a water-filled quarry at an informal settlement near Mamelodi.

In a statement on Sunday, the department announced Bokaba had been tasked to find the facts and establish accountability and the failures on the part of the department and contractor.

READ | Mashaba to appoint team to investigate drowning of two boys in Pretoria: 'It was due to negligence'

Gauteng Transport MEC Jacob Mamabolo said the investigation would be independent even though the department had commissioned it.

"The department's role will be to provide the investigator with access to all materials and information within its power and control that the investigator regards as relevant to the purposes of the investigation," Mamabolo added.

"The department will also assist with facilitating meetings with any person who may have information relevant to the investigation as well as provide such assistance as may be necessary for the investigator to obtain materials and information requested from third parties.

"The investigation shall be conducted in accordance with the principles of natural justice, respecting the confidentiality of information received on that basis, rights of privacy and the security of information."

He said the report would be completed and delivered to the department as soon as was reasonably possible, bearing in mind the need for a thorough investigation, adding the findings and recommendations would be disclosed publicly.

READ | 'Mama, I'm going to play' - final words young boy spoke to his mom before drowning

Mamabolo cautioned against dangerous speculations and encouraged everyone to wait for the outcome of the investigation.

Despite that, ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba and Tshwane Human Settlements MMC Mpho Mehlape-Zimu both said it was clear negligence was involved.

This is because the quarry, part of a construction site, had not been fenced off.

"This matter should not be treated as an accident, this must be treated as the murder of two young people by our government because of negligence," Mashaba said.

"This is not an accident scene; this is a crime scene.

"Whoever was responsible for this excavation, did they not know about this? Construction of this nature anywhere in the world is managed and controlled by health and safety measures put in place to safeguard communities."

He added he would be appointing his own legal team to investigate the incident and had the affected families' blessings to do so.

Tshwane Human Settlements MMC Mpho Mehlape-Zimu said the deaths were preventable and because of the clear and apparent negligence, there needed to be liability from the contractors and they would have to compensate the families over and above taking care of the funerals.

Both Siyabonga and Laurence were buried this weekend.

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