After two days of frantically searching for three young boys who went missing along the Moretele river on Monday evening, police and the community of Mamelodi East are no closer to finding Bonolo Malemela, 9, Gomolemo Mangena, 10, and Neo Setlhabane, 10.
A friend of the boys, Tshiamo Baloyi, 8, from Extension 4, played with them before they went missing. On Wednesday, he showed police search-and-rescue units where he last saw his friends.
Tshiamo would also have disappeared but he did not want to play in the pipes.
Fikile Baloyi, Tshiamo’s mother, said her son often played with the other three boys.
Tshiamo pointed out the spot where the boys crawled into the storm water drain pipes on Magagula Street. He said they were supposed to come out on the other end of the pipe near Tsomo Street and he ran down the street to meet them.
“When they didn’t come out on the other side, Tshiamo panicked and started calling their names. There was no response,” his mother said.
After a family member asked him what he was doing so far from home, Tshiamo went home but only told his mother what happened on Tuesday, 12 hours after the boys went missing.
Police combed the underground drainage system where Tshiamo last saw his friends but could not find the youngsters. They covered several hundred metres of underground pipes between Magagula and Tsomo streets.
Rescue workers found chalk drawings on the sides of the pipes but could not confirm who drew them.
Hundreds of community members spent the morning waiting for good news from the police, only to be sent home at 2.30pm when the search was called off for the day.
Police spokesman Captain Johannes Maheso said they didn’t have any leads at this stage and couldn’t rule out the possibility that the boys had been swept away by the river.
“We will continue the search until we succeed,” Maheso said.
Police asked Tshiamo to go into the pipe with them, but his parents said he was too confused and traumatised.
“I am so happy my son is safe. He’s so lucky. I really feel for the other parents and I wish they find their children,” Baloyi said.
Gomolemo’s mother, Susan Mangena, watched while police searched for her son. “I cannot take this anymore,” she said when the search was called off for the day.
Lerato Mangena said the family was struggling without her nephew Gomolemo.
“The other children are scared because he is the eldest. They went to school but they are really struggling. Without Gomolemo they don't want to do anything,” she said.
Bonolo and Gomolemo attend Pula-difate Primary School while Neo attends Boikgantsho Primary School.
Police said they would return on Thursday at 8.30am to search further along the river towards the Moretele park resort.