Three best friends, who spent their last living moments playing in an underground drainage pipe together, were laid to rest beside each other on Wednesday.
During a joint funeral service, Bonolo Malemela, 9, Gomolemo Mangena, 10, and Neo Setlhabane, 10, were buried in the Mamelodi East cemetery almost 10 days after they went missing.
Their bodies were found along the Moretele River near the Mamelodi East sports grounds at the weekend after they were last seen playing in a concrete storm water drain last Monday.
Following heavy rain, the trio were swept away and drowned.
A week-long search involving emergency services. police and residents ensued after the boys were reported missing.
“The family is relieved. We found our children’s bodies and they have now been laid to rest properly,” Bonolo’s uncle Godfrey Malemela told Pretoria News on Wednesday.
Hundreds of community members and fellow school pupils from the Pula-Difate and Boikgantsho primary schools filled the small St Peter Claver Roman Catholic Church to pay their last respects to the boys.
This week, Neo’s mother Moloko Setlhabane told Pretoria News the boys enjoyed playing in this life and would continue playing together in the afterlife.
The street where the three boys lived was closed and a large tent erected where family and friends gathered before and after the church service.
Drum majorettes guided the hearse to the church.
The congregation took comfort in the bereavement poem, Look for me in the rainbows:
“Time for me to go now, I won’t say goodbye; look for me in rainbows, way up in the sky.
In the morning sunrise when all the world is new, just look for me and love me, as you know I loved you.”
Executive Mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa attended the funeral on behalf of the City of Tshwane.
“As a city, we are deeply saddened by this tragic accident and hope the families can find some solace knowing that the children are in a better place,” he said.
He said he knew the families’ dreams for the trio were bright.
His office has also financially supported the families for the funeral.
On Saturday morning, Gomolemo’s body was found under a fallen tree and, hours later, community members saw three of Neo’s fingers sticking out of a pile of sand near the river bank.
Gomolemo’s body was found 700m from where they disappeared.
Bonolo’s body was found among tall reeds on Sunday morning, almost 100m from Gomolemo’s body.
Community member Irvin Kabini said the community of Mamelodi East was brought together by the tragic deaths.
“People came out in their numbers to look for the boys last week.
“Some people were there every day from when we started in the morning until the end of the day when we stopped.”