Rustenburg - A police diver died while on a rescue mission in KwaZulu-Natal on Sunday, the SA Police Service (SAPS) said.
Spokesperson Colonel Athlenda Mathe said the police diver was attached to the Pietermaritzburg Search and Rescue (SAR) police diving unit.
“At about 11:30 on Sunday morning, 42-year-old Sergeant Busisiswe Mjwara was conducting a search in the Msunduzi River for three victims who had drowned earlier in the week, when she got into difficulty and drowned. The member was airlifted to a nearby hospital but was sadly declared dead on arrival,” Colonel Mathe said.
She said during the same operation, K9 [police dog] Leah from the Durban Central Search and Rescue unit also drowned.
“According to reports, Leah was attempting to assist Sergeant Mjwara when she also experienced difficulties.”
Mathe said another policewoman, Constable Thandazile Sithole, 31, attached to the Durban Central Police Station, died when her home collapsed on her earlier this week.
“At least 30 police officers have been affected by the floods with some injured and the majority displaced after their homes were washed away.”
Mathe said National Commissioner General Fannie Masemola led a delegation of senior managers from the visible policing and operational service division on Saturday to assess the organisation’s operational response in providing support to the Ethekwini District.
She said additional members and resources from the police search and rescue units in neighbouring provinces have been roped in to bolster search and rescue operations.
“The SAPS Airwing, K9 and police diving units as well as front line officers have formed part of government’s co-ordinated and concerted efforts to strengthen support to affected areas.”
In a statement, General Masemola said the officers died heroines, putting their country first.
“My heartfelt condolences goes out to the family, friends and colleagues of the two members, K9 Leah and those members who have lost their loved ones. A speedy recovery to those who have been injured as well as those who have lost their homes and belongings.
“As management we will be looking into the immediate needs of all affected and see how best we can remedy the situation. I also wish to thank members of the SAPS for upholding and enforcing the law during these challenging times as well as pay gratitude to those who remain at the forefront of the search and rescue operations,” he said.
KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala said 443 people have lost their lives and 63 more were unaccounted for.
“The current inclement weather had slowed our assessment and rescue operations on the ground, but we are once again back into full swing. As of this morning, KwaZulu-Natal received 38 call-outs and on the scenes that were attended to, six bodies were recovered. We stand at 63 persons missing or unaccounted for. The death toll now stands at 443,” Zikalala said on Sunday, giving an update on the situation in the province.
He said the government and social partners would provide support to the bereaved families.
“This morning [Sunday] the Executive Council approved the provincial policy on Government Support Funeral Assistance to people who passed away as a result of the flood disasters.
“Municipalities have policies to assist the needy and the indigent and are currently conducting profiling in line with their policies. Partners such as Avbob have also committed to supporting about 150 people."
He said due to water and electricity challenges there have been delays with post-mortem reports but the department of health was attending to the situation.
“Every needy family will be supported and as of today [Sunday], we will be ready to assist families that are ready to lay their loved ones to rest. The burial support committee has been established in the Office of the Premier for co-ordination purposes, working with the department of social development and the department of co-operative governance and traditional affairs.”