Theft of trench barriers could be factor in drowning of 3 Hammanskraal children
Pretoria - The theft of plastic barriers for enclosing the waterlogged trench in which three Hammanskraal children drowned at the weekend might have been a factor which compromised their safety.
It emerged yesterday that some barricades cordoning off the trench for installing stormwater drains were missing.
In fact, according to Roads and Transport MMC Dikeledi Selowa, a contractor had disclosed that cases of theft were opened at Temba police station long before the tragedy.
Kutlwano Mkhwanazi, 9, Tshepo Machete, 10, and Samuel Maphoso, 10, drowned while swimming in the trench on Saturday. The trio allegedly threw one of the barricades inside the trench, allowing it to float and then jumped on top of it one by one.
Locals who spoke to the Pretoria News said the barricade got off-balance owig to the heavy combined weight of the children, who fell into the water and drowned.
Selowa said: “The contractor had told the City that they had opened cases of theft at Temba police station because even their barricade measures kept on being stolen.
"The site was barricaded and it seems as if some portion of it was getting stolen and that when the heavy rain was experienced some of the barricades fell into the trench.”
At the weekend she met the bereaved families and it emerged that “there were actually more children who were playing”.
“One family told us that there were five children and the other claimed there were seven to 11 children,” Selowa said.
Yesterday she was scheduled to meet the contractor, Executive Mayor Randall Williams, the engineer and the group head for roads and transport to establish all factors linked to the deaths.
Asked whether the City would take full responsibility for the loss of lives, she said: “It will be premature for me to say whether the City or the contractor must be held liable for what happened.”
She said there was still an investigation that had to take place to determine where things went wrong.
Contrary to claims by the bereaved families that construction started early this year, Selowa said the service provider was appointed in January, but work started in July.
“In the Hammanskraal area there is a lot of flooding, so because of the flooding you can’t just construct the roads without first putting in a stormwater drainage system.
"To address the flooding we had to install stormwater drainage to get rid of the excess water when it does rain,” she said.
The project, she said, would take place between this financial year and the next financial year. “It is going to carry through to next year because during level 4 and 5 there was no work that was done. That on its own put the project in a three-month backlog.”