Last of drowned men found

Chester Makana

Chester Makana

The body of the last of three brothers who drowned in Limpopo last weekend has been found.

Police divers on Tuesday found the body of 22-year-old Muhsin Patel in Nandoni Dam.

He and his brothers - Mehbob, 28, and Shoin, 32 - drowned on Saturday when their small boat sank in the dam while they were out on a picnic.

Shoin was rescued immediately, but died on arrival at Tshilidzini Hospital. Mehbob's body was found two days later.

The death of the three family members brings to six the number of people who have drowned in the dam since it was built in 2000.

Three people died last year while fishing in the dam.

But the Department of Water Affairs has blamed the Mulenzhe Development Trust (MDT), a community-owned organisation, for the incidents.

Department spokesman Themba Khumalo said the department had not given the MDT a licence to operate recreational facilities and business in the dam, only around it.

The MDT made millions of rands on royalties from the department when it sold the land for construction of the dam.

"We were aware of businesses taking place at the dam, but it is not true that we have allowed MDT to operate such business there. As government, we encourage everyone who wants to run a business to apply with us," said Khumalo.

He said it was not the department's fault that people had drowned in the dam in the past "because those people entered into our dam illegally".

Khumalo said the latest tragedy was being investigated.

"We are expressing our sympathy to the families that have lost their loved ones," he said.

But Maluta Mabanda, the spokesman for the MDT, denied claims by the department that they were operating illegally.

"We have notified the department about our operations and they are fully aware of our activities," he said.

He could not confirm if the department's permission was in writing. "I must check first at our office," he said.

Villagers who spoke on condition of anonymity said they had witnessed several people riding drunk in boats at the dam.

The department said it would release a report of its investigation soon.