'I heard her screaming': policeman braves flooded river to rescue woman

Const Moleko Mabe was lauded for his bravery.
Const Moleko Mabe was lauded for his bravery.
Image: SAPS

“I heard the granny screaming in the bushy area, already inside the river, asking for help.”

This is how a policeman — hailed as a hero for risking his life — ended up wading into the flooded Kgoptjane River to save the life of an elderly woman in the Free State.

Const Moleko Mabe, attached to the visible policing unit at Phuthaditjhaba police station, had just started his shift with W/O Mandla Mothapo on Monday when a call for help came over the police radio.

Upon their arrival at the river, members of the community had gathered on a bridge.

“I heard the granny screaming ... I couldn’t even see her, but used my amateur swimming skills and made my way through the thorny branches and into the muddy [river],” Mabe recalled in a statement on Wednesday.

“The water was flowing heavily as a result of showers of rain. I finally saw her holding onto a branch of a tree, but it was a bit difficult to reach out to her due to the dense branches.”

Eventually he reached her. “I was not afraid to drown, as my focus was to rescue the granny. I told her that I am here to rescue and save her life. It was a frightening moment for her. She asked me how I am going to rescue her seeing that I don’t even have a rope.”

Improvising, he told her to hold onto his belt and swam towards the river bank.

The pair eventually reached safe ground and were helped from the water. “I saw a snake in the grass along the way but couldn’t mind it as my mind was to get the granny to safety,” he added.

Emma Tlaleng Mahloko, 67, from Mangaung village, was taken to the police station and reunited with her family. She explained that she had considered taking her own life due to mounting debts at home.

Provincial police commissioner Lt-Gen Baile Motswenyane was touched by the selflessness of Mabe.

“He truly lives his calling. He is an example to other police officials,” said Motswenyane.

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