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Boy’s death ‘could’ve been avoided’ if fence had not been stolen: City of Ekurhuleni

The City of Ekurhuleni has shared images showing the fencing around a social housing project in Wattville before it was stolen.
The City of Ekurhuleni has shared images showing the fencing around a social housing project in Wattville before it was stolen.
Image: Supplied

The death of an 11-year-old boy who drowned after falling into an excavation trench filled with water “could've been avoided” if the fencing had not been stolen.

This is according to the City of Ekurhuleni, which shared older images showing the fencing with a “warning: deep excavation” sign placed in front of the trench.

It's not clear when the fencing was removed.

The community of Wattville was left reeling when Luyanda Phakathi died after he was allegedly pushed into the deep trench by another child on Saturday.

Newzroom Afrika spoke to the young boy's family, who shared their devastation at his death. “In everything that has happened, I blame the government because it's not even a dam but a result of a 2017 RDP project that's incomplete. My son was pushed into the water by another child,” his heartbroken mother said.

The warning sign placed on fencing around a housing project in Wattville.
The warning sign placed on fencing around a housing project in Wattville.
Image: Supplied

His family said there was no fencing or security in place to keep children from gaining access to the site.

The city's Zweli Dlamini, however, disputed this, saying that the area had been secured but the fence was stolen “over a period of time”. Not only that, window and door frames had been stripped off by vandals, he said.

“It could've been avoided. It's unfortunate that we find ourselves in this space. All of this has been caused by criminality. It is rather a pity that today we have lost a life because of [this].

“The place was fenced off, with signage [saying] it's dangerous, but crooks stole the fence and signage and today we mourn the loss of an innocent child,” he said.

Dlamini confirmed the project was for RDP “high-rise” housing and had started in 2017. He explained that it was a joint project between the city and Gauteng government and was ongoing but had faced delays due to “budgetary adjustments”.

“We've appointed contractors and they are about to start soon,” he said.

Police spokesperson Lt-Col Mavela Masondo said an inquest had been opened.

“Police have opened an inquest docket after an 11-year-old child drowned while they were swimming in stagnant water following heavy rainfall in Wattville.

“It is reported that children were swimming when one of them disappeared in the water. Police search and rescue team were summoned and retrieved the body of the victim. Police investigation is continuing,” Masondo said.

Gauteng human settlements and infrastructure development MEC Lebogang Maile is set to visit the site and Phakathi's family on Monday.

The department confirmed that the project, dubbed the Harry Gwala social housing project, had faced several delays for “various reasons including serious vandalism”.

“Last week the department reappointed a contractor that will set up the site this week to complete the project,” the department said.

TimesLIVE


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