Call for investigation into sinkhole deaths

MEC for Transport and Public Works, Bonginkosi Madikizela with councillor Khaya Yozi, MEC for Health Nomafrench Mbombo with Ntomboxolo Makhoba-Somdaka at the site where four Nyanga boys died after a sandbank caved in.

Following the tragic incident of the death of four children in Nyanga last week, the MEC for Transport and Public Works, Bonginkosi Madikizela, has instructed his department to conduct an urgent investigation to determine what had happened.

During his visit to extend his condolences to the families last Thursday, Mr Madikizela said the investigation should include the identification of any similar danger spots on the provincial road network.

The children had been playing along the N2 highway in Nyanga, when the sand caved in around them.

The bodies of Axolile Mabangula, Azola Quweni, Nqabayethu Mlaza and Ivakele “Iva” Dalasile were later recovered by emergency teams.

“The first thing I am currently doing is to conduct a full investigation so that we can establish other areas where this thing is happening. This tragedy is saying to us that we must be more vigilant because I suspect this is happening in a number of areas,” Mr Madikizela said.

MEC for Transport and Public Works, Bonginkosi Madikizela, far right with Azola Quweni’s family. From left are father Mphumzi Qakalala, MEC for Health Nomafrench Mbombo, Nonkoliseko Quweni,Virginia Xwethu and Nonkosazana Tshabane.

He said criminals had dug out large amounts of sand from the road embankment and this resulted in the material above collapsing while the children were playing there, unaware of the danger. “I have therefore requested that SAPS launch an investigation with the aim of bringing those who are directly responsible for the death of these children to book.

“ I have also written to both SAPS and law enforcement to urge increased policing in this area to prevent this from happening again, with a dedicated law enforcement strategy to stop it from happening. My colleague, MEC for Community Safety, Albert Fritz, will also have this raised through the different committees the province is represented on,” he said.

Mr Madikizela, who was accompanied by local councillor Khaya Yozi, MEC for Health, Nomafrench Mbombo and hordes of local people, also urged community members to report any knowledge of this sort of criminal activity as soon as it happens. He added that to prevent another tragic incident as has happened on the N2, his department would assess other areas where people dig for sand on highways.

“The death of these four children is heart-breaking and we welcome the swift action by the Department of Social Development in providing counselling to the parents and family members of the children. I thought it was important to come and see the families,” said Mr Madikizela.

Ms Mbombo said it was important for people to visit the families so they do not feel alone. She also said something like this should not happen again.

Councillor Khaya Yozi, with MEC for Health Nomafrench Mbombo and MEC for Transport and Public Works Bonginkosi Madikezela comforting Iva’s mother, Fundiswa Kalikopu at her home.

Mr Yozi said it was important for all spheres of the government to work together when such incidents occur. He said leaders have shown that they work together and give the necessary support.

A sobbing Fundiswa Kalikopu, said her 13-year-old son, Iva, enjoyed playing soccer and was a happy child. She said he was the youngest of three boys.

She recalled some moments she will treasure. “When I am tired he would wash my feet and massage them. I got him when I was 41 years and I think that is why he so loved me. He loved playing soccer,” she said sobbing.

She said she last saw Iva when he told her he was going out to play soccer with his friends. “He took his pants out next to me and told me he was going to play soccer. When I asked him about the soil he swept and did not take out, he said he would come back and throw it away. That was the last time I saw him,” she said.

The families said they all wish to bury their children this weekend.

The number to report such incidents to the authorities is: 021 480 7700 from a cellphone and 107 from a landline.