Family claims EMS wanted to grill Khayalethu Magadla’s friends

Three weeks before six-year-old Khayalethu Magadla was found yesterday, cracks were beginning to appear in the relationship between his family and Joburg Emergency Management Services (EMS).

Magadla was swallowed by a manhole at a playground near his home in Dlamini, Soweto.

The Magadla family’s spokesperson, Derrick Mngomezulu, alleged this week that Joburg EMS approached the family on Sunday asking  them to allow Magadla’s friends, who he was playing with when he fell into the manhole, to be interrogated by social workers.

“The EMS told us that the children who were playing with Khaya on that day should speak to social workers for interrogation [on] whether the boy indeed fell into the manhole. We crushed the idea because there is no way that children would lie about something like this for three days, especially when they see that the police are involved,” said Mngomezulu.

EMS spokesperson Robert Mulaudzi denied such a meeting took place. “As Joburg EMS we are focusing on the search of the young boy as we were told on Monday 13 June 2022, when we arrived on scene, that the child fell into a manhole. [We will do so] until we conclude the search and the results tell us a different story. We are not in a position to comment on this matter,” he said.

On Monday, Joburg EMS handed over the search to Joburg Water.

Magadla was missing for more than 20 days despite the extensive search by a multidisciplinary team involving EMS, the police K9 dog unit, search and rescue and air wing.

Technology deployed in the search includes high-tech devices to gather visuals along parts of the 13km-long sewer line running through Soweto, Klipspruit and Lenasia towards the Olifantsvlei Water Treatment Plant.

The city of Johannesburg reported that there are 1.3 million manholes around its perimeter, some of which were still uncovered, Sunday World observed during a drive around Soweto neighbourhoods.

At least six manholes were uncovered at an informal settlement in Kliptown, and there was an open street drainage system through which a huge volume of water was flowing while children played nearby.

Pupils at Musi Comprehensive School also need to be  careful not to fall into the two manholes next to the school yard on Modjadji Street in Pimville.

Agitated Kliptown resident Doris Malata said the negligence by the city was annoying and needed to be condemned.

“The situation is dire for us and it is scary to have our kids play in the streets. What is the purpose of Joburg Water to have people employed there but they do nothing to deal with uncovered manholes?” she asked.

Mlungisi Mabaso, a concerned Pimville resident, said the uncovered manholes were a norm in the township, and they had to dice with death daily.

“We are used to these open manholes and it is nothing new. Nobody is willing to do their jobs at the city of Joburg,  and what happened to Khaya is not surprising.

“Even if we report to Joburg Water, nothing is done,” said Mabaso.

Joburg Water spokesperson Nondumiso Mabuza said the water utility conducts regular inspections through preventative maintenance, and manholes found to be uncovered are attended to.

“The entity receives about 2 400 queries of missing manhole covers annually, and 98% of these queries are attended to within 24 hours.

“The entity is piloting an intelligent manhole sensoring technology linked to our control room to have early detection of any tampering with manholes,” said Mabuza.

Dozens of manholes in Sebokeng, Evaton and Palm Springs in Emfuleni have been left wide open and residents say the Emfuleni municipality does not care.

A unnamed nine-year-old girl from Sebokeng also lost her life after falling into an uncovered manhole.

Emfuleni spokesperson Makhosonke Sangweni said he is not in a position to give an exact figure of how many uncovered manholes there are.

“At this moment the municipality is in no financial position to acquire technologies that detect when a manhole cover is missing. As a result, we are highly reliant on consumers to report stolen covers so that they are replaced as speedily as possible,” Sangweni said.

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