Pupil drowns as lifeguards strike

Sne Masuku

Sne Masuku

The South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu), representing striking lifeguards on Durban's beachfront, has warned eThekwini Municipality that their members would not be on duty again this coming weekend.

The lifeguards are refusing to work on weekends after the municipality allegedly terminated their weekend allowances.

The absence of lifeguards last weekend allegedly resulted in the drowning of a pupil from Ohlange High School at Inanda near Durban.

Lungelo Ngcobo disappeared while helping two friends who almost drowned at Wedge Beach on Saturday.

Samwu provincial spokesman Jaycee Ncanana said the problem began when the municipality stopped the weekend allowances of some of the lifeguards while continuing to pay the others.

"Our doors are open. If the employer wants service, he must pay for it," said Ncanana.

He warned there would not be a single lifeguard on the beach should the municipality fail to arrange a meeting with the union before the weekend.

Ohlange deputy principal Mthandeni Mchunu said the pupils were on their yearly outing at the beach when the tragedy occurred.

Mchunu said Ngcobo and five schoolmates were sitting on the beach when a big wave hit them, drowning Lungelo.

Mchunu said the school caretakers were not aware that the lifeguards were on strike, otherwise they would not have allowed the pupils to go anywhere near the sea.

He added that some of the pupils had to be treated by a doctor because they were severely traumatised.