By Sharika Regchand

Msunduzi municipal officials will conduct a blitz on all creches in Pietermaritzburg in an attempt to clamp down on illegal operations.

This follows the drowning of a three-year-old boy at a creche in Orient Heights, Pietermaritzburg, on Monday.

It was alleged that the boy, Thando Mkhize, was playing with other children at Stepping Stones creche during a break.

It was later discovered that he was missing. A search was launched in the immediate vicinity and Thando was found floating in the pool.

When police arrived at the scene, Thando had already been retrieved from the water by the creche manager. He was immediately taken to Daymed Clinic, but he was already dead.

Police were investigating the circumstances of the drowning and an inquest docket was opened. Msunduzi spokesperson Evodia Mahlangu said that the results of the investigation would be discussed with the council's legal advisers.

Mahlangu added that municipal environmental health officials had advised the creche to register with the social development department.

"We have found that this creche does comply with the municipality's requirements and the Children's Act. Only the pool was not secured properly and the owner was advised to do so, which they have (now) done," she said.

Mahlangu appealed to all creche owners who had not registered their creches to do so immediately.

"Running an unregistered creche is illegal and there will be consequences if found doing so," she said.

According to bylaws relating to creches, "no paddling pool, swimming pool, sand pit or other structure shall be permitted without prior approval of the medical officer of health, and only subject to such conditions as may be laid down by him from time to time".

Penalties for failing to comply with provisions include a maximum fine of R500 or a jail term of six months, or both, for a first offence.

For subsequent transgressions, the penalty increases to a fine of R1 000 or imprisonment for a year, or both.

Social development spokesperson Mandla Ngema said that the department would investigate the incident and take the appropriate action.

When contacted for comment on Thursday, Stepping Stones manager Julian Harry said: "We are too traumatised; we have said enough," and then put the phone down.

Thando's father, Constable Mlondi Mkhize, said he would wait for police investigations to be completed to determine whether anyone was liable for his son's death.

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