12/03/2014. Members of the Mamelodi East community are desperately searching for three missing boys next to the Moretele river. Picture: Oupa Mokoena

Johannesburg -

The bodies of three children reported missing earlier in the week in Mamelodi East, Pretoria, have been found, the City of Tshwane said on Sunday.

“The bodies of the three missing children from Mamelodi were recovered yesterday (Saturday) and today (Sunday), bringing an end to a week-long search and rescue operation,” spokesman Blessing Manale said in a statement.

“The city's emergency personnel found the bodies underneath trees that were uprooted and fell into the river approximately 50m and three kilometres on the Pienaars River away from the pipe the children were last spotted.”

The children - nine-year-old Bonolo Malemela and 10-year-olds Gomolemo Mangena and Neo Sehlabane - were last seen on Monday after school.

After getting home from school, they changed their clothes and were playing near a stormwater pipe, which had been covered by debris from flooding following last week's heavy rains.

Tshwane mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa sent his condolences to the families of the three children.

“As a city, we are deeply saddened by this tragic accident. We hope the families can find some solace knowing that the children are in a better place and that as a city we will support them through this difficult time,” he said.

“To this end, we will be assisting the family with burial requirements. We also want to take this opportunity to urge parents to be more vigilant and look after their children, particularly during this period of wet weather.”

He said communities also needed to rally together and collectively look after each other.

“The old adage 'it takes a nation to raise a child' remains true to this day and we urge adults to be alert of potentially dangerous situations around youngsters, intervene and save our children,” said Ramokgopa.

The mayor thanked the emergency services team for their dedication and hard work, and thanked the police for the support during the operation.

City officials from the health department visited the families to offer immediate counselling and support. - Sapa