Fetching water for ancestral ritual leads to deaths of brothers in 'river of death'

Alex Matlala

A search for water to perform rituals ended tragically when Limpopo's notorious "river of death" claimed the lives of two brothers who fell into a river and drowned.

Elvis Maake, 40, and his brother Moatli, 25, from GaRapitsi village in Bolobedu, Modjadjiskloof, went to fetch water from the Mabitje River on Monday.

The water was to have been used in rituals to appease their ancestors.

The brothers stood on rocks on the river bank and threw bottles, tied with string, into the water.

Unfortunately, it seems the rocks were too slippery, and the men lost their footing and fell into the river.

Police spokesman, Superintendent Moatshe Ngoepe, said the men had drowned.

"We received an anonymous call informing us two men had drowned in the river," said Ngoepe.

"When we arrived there, we launched a search for the bodies. It took us two hours to retrieve them from the water," he said.

Police divers found the brothers' bodies at about 3pm on Monday, Ngoepe said.

He said they had opened a docket into the deaths and that investigations were continuing.

The river is notorious for drownings and is widely referred to as the "river of death".

This is because of "mysterious incidents" that have occurred there when people have gone to fetch water.

A few months ago, another man fell and drowned while fetching water from the river.

Other people have allegedly drowned while trying to perform rituals on the banks of the river.

However, Ngoepe warned members of the public against fetching water from the river or venturing too close to it "as it is dangerous to do so".