The three boys enjoyed playing together in this life, and surely they will continue to play together in the afterlife.
This sentiment was shared by Moloko Setlhabane, when she spoke about the death of her son Neo, and his two friends who were found dead at the weekend.
The three drowned when they disappeared into the Moretele River while playing together during last Monday’s heavy rains.
The 10-year-old Neo and his friends, Bonolo Malemela, 9, and Gomolemo Mangena, 10, had been playing along a concrete storm water drain in a park after school, when they were swept away.
A week-long search by the community, the police and municipal search and rescue experts ensued. Relatives and friends grew frantic as the week progressed with no sign of the boys. Heavy rains and swollen river levels shortened search hours, but community members risked their lives and waded in chest-high water as they searched.
Gomolemo’s body was spotted on Saturday morning, and hours later, community members saw three of Neo’s fingers sticking out of a pile of sand along the river bank.
“It was the will of God that he was found,” the mother said. He had been deeply submerged by the sand, and had it not been for a bird circling above, they would not have seen the fingers, she said. The mother had just received a delegation of provincial and local government officials, who were in Mamelodi to commiserate with the bereaved families.
Deputy Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Andries Nel went with Tshwane MMC for health Eulanda Mabusela. MMCs for sports and recreation, Nozipho Makeko, and environment and agriculture Pertunia Mashaba, were also part of the delegation.
They said the boys’ deaths were a loss to the city. Mabusela said: “We share their pain. These young men would have contributed to the economy of the city.” The delegation offered to assist with the burials of the lads, and said they would attend the memorial service organised by the community on Tuesday. Mabusela said counsellors were working with the boys’ families and schools.
“We will also extend post-funeral support to the families,” she said, adding that funerals did not mean the end of grief. Gomolemo’s mother, Susan Mangena, said the pain still ran deep, but she and her family were holding on.
“It is very difficult, we are finding it hard to accept that he is gone, but the support keeps us going,” she said. The boys will be given a joint memorial service at Mamelodi East Assemblies of God church. Funerals, to be held on Wednesday, will be from their family churches.