Two young people are still missing after they were apparently swept away by a strong water current in the Klip River, leading to an appeal by the Joburg Emergency Management Services (EMS) for community members to exercise extreme caution while conducting religious rituals.
The search for the 18-year-old girl and a 21-year-old man was called off on Sunday night and it resumed on Monday morning around the area where the two vanished on Klip River in Joburg.
The two were part of a group that was conducting a cleansing ceremony on Saturday evening.
Joburg EMS spokesperson Robert Mulaudzi told broadcaster Newzroom Afrika that several people are swept away each summer season while conduction religious rituals at the streams and rivers across the populous city.
“We actually have a problem throughout the City of Johannesburg, especially around the summer seasons. During this period we see an increase in terms of the incidents where it can be church communities, it can be people who believe in various religions visiting most of our river streams.”
In December last year, at least 15 people drowned after water current swept them away while conducting a baptism ceremony in the Jukskei River in Joburg.
Mulaudzi said residents frequent the rivers and streams around Joburg for activities including baptism, cleansing ceremonies and other rituals.
“We have intensified our public education efforts to make sure that our church communities are aware of the safety measures that they can take when they conduct these rituals. South Africa is a democratic country where everyone is allowed to practice his or her own religion,” he said.
“From our side, we cannot say you cannot do that, but we are saying when our residents are conducting these kinds of rituals, they need to make sure that all the safety measures are taken care of so that we can prevent incidents like this one.”
The Joburg EMS highlighted that many believers are of the view that at the time when the water current is strong, it is the perfect time to conduct the religious rituals, which puts them in danger.
Mulaudzi added that most of the rituals in the rivers and water streams are also conducted at night, which makes it more dangerous, given the limited visibility.
IOL reported in December that the 15 church-goers who drowned in the Jukskei River were caught in a flash flood following heavy rains in the area.