There's no record that two open manholes were reported, says Phalatse

Johannesburg mayor Mpho Phalatse.
Johannesburg mayor Mpho Phalatse.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

City of Johannesburg mayor Mpho Phalatse says there was no record of the two open manholes at the park in Dlamini, Soweto, being reported.

Khayalethu Magadla, six, fell into an open manhole on Sunday while playing with friends at the popular park on Mtambo street and has been missing since.

Phalatse, who visited Khayalethu's family on Wednesday, however, said she would investigate who the open manholes were reported to if they were and where the communication error may have occurred.

“The community here claims that the manhole covers were reported, however the system that Joburg Water uses does not have these reports,” she said.

“We will be investigating to find out who they were reported to, perhaps they were reported to an individual who did not pass on the information. So, we need to find out where those weaknesses in communication are.”

Phalatse said theft and vandalism were the reason the sewer holes were without covers.

Khayalethu Magadla, 6, fell into a manhole in Dlamini, Soweto.
Khayalethu Magadla, 6, fell into a manhole in Dlamini, Soweto.

“As you know a lot of our manhole covers do have metal that has some street value, that attracts thieves and vandals unfortunately,” she said.

“As much as we do our own inspections, we do rely on communities to report when there’s manhole covers missing.”

She said the teams have committed to continue their search, however long it may take, to recover the boy’s body.

The search will enter its fourth day on Thursday.

On Wednesday, the search saw officials probed a sewer split chamber near Eldorado Park which they said could be the last hope for rescuers to find the little boy.

While chances of finding him alive were said to be slim, police divers, rescuers, paramedics as well as municipal workers have been hard at work to try to reunite the boy with his family

The chamber situated near the Avaton Cemetery is the central point where all sewage as well as debris flows to. Here officials were hopeful that they would make progress.

Johannesburg water officials used a jet vacuuming truck to suck out any debris and pick up any large objects. 

A drone was used to survey land at a nearby river. This device fed live visuals to an operator, who would pick up on any items or objects resembling a human figure.

Johannesburg Emergency Service spokesperson Robert Mulaudzi said the area was possibly the last place the boy’s body might be recovered.

“Before the water gets into the plant, there is a net that sifts all the debris and that is what they are sucking out. If we cannot find him here at the chamber, we will move towards the net,” he said.

“Because all the sewer water flows here, our greatest chance of recovering his body lies here.”

Malaudzi said in the event that the Khayalethu’s body is not recovered, teams would have to head back to the drawing board and revisit all the places they have searched before including where he fell.

“The promise that we would find the boy’s body will be fulfilled. If it needs be, we will revisit all the other manholes again.”

Back at the Eco park in Dlamini street about 10km away where Khayalethu fell, residents have been camping there monitoring any children coming to play as the manholes remained open.

Children below the age of 12 were being turned away by concerned residents who said they were no longer comfortable with children playing at the park.

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