Cape Town - “These were my children. They were the pillars of our church.”
Those were the words of a heartbroken Reverend Luvo Valela of the St Paul’s Apostolic Faith Mission Church, after three members drowned during a baptism ceremony at Monwabisi Beach on Sunday.
Three men belonging to the church drowned after concluding a baptism ceremony. Two of the bodies were recovered and a third, Awonke Manyakanyaka, is still missing.
City of Cape Town law enforcement spokesperson Wayne Dyason said he was informed by that police would not continue with the search as the body "could be anywhere due to tidal movement and general sea conditions in that particular area".
Awonke Manyakanyaka is still missing.
“A police helicopter will do an aerial reconnaissance only and is currently airborne,” he said.
Also read: Search called off for third missing man after Monwabisi baptism drowning
Meanwhile, at the church, mourners gathered and Endlovini, Khayelitsha, residents came forward to share their condolences with the church.
A preacher who was present during the incident, Luphumzo Sixisha, described what happened.
“Each year, we go to the beach where we perform our baptism ceremony, this one was no different. In fact the ceremony itself was successful.
“However, as the pastor was telling us to leave and we started making our way out of the water. Themba Alipheli Klaas (one of the deceased) screamed for help as he was experiencing difficulties,” said Sixisha.
The second victim tried to help him out of the water, but due to Klaas's weight, he was unable to left him. Both were swept away by rip currents.
“At this point, Awonke, went in to assist but he too was overwhelmed by difficulties. We tried going in but the waves were too strong. All we could see was their hands and sometimes heads as the waves kept pushing them further away,” he said.
Valela said he had performed baptism services at Monwabisi Beach for nine years with the three men.
“We did not go deep into the water. The water went to our waist,” he said.
During the ceremony there were no lifeguards on duty.
Siphiwo Foloti, a priest from another church who was present at the baptism, said: “As all churches work in God’s accordance for baptism, we do not prepare for lifeguards. We have one lifeguard and that is the God whom we serve.”
The Manyakanyaka family said they believed their son has been taken away by the ancestors and is yet to return.
“Our belief is that this part of our ancestors' work. We are at peace waiting for a sign from our ancestors; we will not cry and have asked our ancestors to give us a sign,” said Mandla Manyakanyaka, the missing man’s uncle.
St Paul’s Apostolic Faith Mission Church has appealed to the public for assistance with burial arrangements.
Valela said most of his congregants were unemployed and the church needed help in transporting the bodies of the deceased back to the Eastern Cape.