Tears, pain, anger as Mamelodi boys who drowned in quarry laid to rest
Pretoria - ”There was nothing we could do to save these boys from drowning, but we do not want any more of our children in the community to drown.”
This was said by residents of Skierlik Mountain View informal settlement in Mamelodi on Saturday, during the emotional funeral of Siyabonga Mabila, 7, and Tony Moore, 4. The week before, the boys drowned while swimming in a construction quarry.
The ceremony to bid them farewell was so emotional that the disadvantaged community could not help but forego Covid-19 crowd limitations. They left their shacks to meet at a gravel road, where tents were erected for them to say their goodbyes.
Mothers Pretty Mabila and Madeline Moore broke down and wept as they watched the small coffins containing their sons’ bodies being taken out of their homes, and loaded into a hearse ahead of a joint burial ceremony in the cemetery. People cried openly. One woman collapsed when the coffin with Tony’s body in it was opened for the family and neighbours to have one last look at him before his body was laid to rest.
Mabila seemingly tried to stay strong during the service, spending most of the time looking down, as if trying to contain herself.
Pastor William Chapanduka of Christ Resurrection Ministries – a church based in the informal settlement – said it was an extremely painful journey, but urged the Mabila and Moore families to stay strong because there was nothing they, or anyone, could have done to save the boys, and their passing was God's will.
“The best thing you can do now is to not point fingers but to lay these boys to rest with your willing hearts, so that you can begin healing and understand that when it's time, it's time. Do not blame yourselves for this. God knows what he is doing. There was really nothing either of you could do,” Chapanduka said.
Speaking for the Mabila family, Aaron Ndimande said: “We are crying really because what happened should not be happening to our children. This is an eye-opener for us as the community as well – we must pay close attention to all children in our community. Your child is not just the one you are raising in your home.
“At the very same time we are seeing that now that this has happened, the quarry has been closed … That is why I'm calling for us as the community to come together and close all the holes in the community to avoid a repeat of such an incident.”
Deon Moore said: “We are broken to the core, really. When the boys' coffins arrived, reality kicked in. My sister really could not contain herself after spending the whole week being strong. We are just glad we took the boys to the quarry, opened the coffins and fetched their spirits, so they could go and rest in peace.”
Stemer Monageng from King Civil Engineering Contractors, which provided transport and security for the funerals, said he was not happy that they spent R95 000 in funeral costs but “the standard was not fitting”. The company was responsible for the construction of a road in the area.
“Somebody inflated prices and we are not happy with that. We are going to investigate this. We would rather the money go to the families than into the pockets of some people,” he said.
Ministers and other political and public figures have visited the families to console them, and condemn the incident. Gauteng province has appointed senior counsel advocate Thomas Bokaba to head an investigation into the incident.
“Advocate Bokaba must find the relevant facts and accountability for the deaths, and also establish failures on the part of the department and contractor,” Public Transport and Roads Infrastructure MEC Jacob Mamabolo said yesterday.
He stressed that although the investigation had been commissioned by his department, it would be completely independent. “The department will also assist in facilitating meetings with any persons who may have formation relevant to the investigation, as well as provide such assistance as may be necessary for the investigator to obtain material and information requested from third parties.”
Mamabolo cautioned against “dangerous” speculation. He encouraged everyone to wait for the outcome of the investigation.