A four-year-old who died after drowning in a sewer in Mocoseng village in Mahikeng was laid to rest on Thursday.
Onthatile Ribani was buried at Masutlhe Two village in Mahikeng in the North West. He died after falling into a six-meter deep sewerage at Sejankabo Secondary School on Sunday while playing with his friends.
Even though the family tried to keep the number of mourners to 50, many community members came and stood outside the yard to pay their last respect and to support the bereaved family.
In his speech at the funeral, a community member who took Onthatile out of the sewerage pit, Thembile Khuma, blamed authorities for dragging their feet to help the family.
“I got in and found him wrapped around a tyre. It looked as if he wanted to use it to take himself out but he was too weak to do that. I would like to also speak about our police and our councillor. I’m not going to hide anything even if they resort to hate me. They failed us as a community by arriving at the scene only to tell us that they can only take Ontatile out of the pit the following day,” Khuma said.
Onthatile’s mother Eli Ribani said she is glad that her son is finally at his final resting place.
“I’m just glad that he's finally laid to rest, although it’s going to be difficult for me to get used to the fact that he is no longer around and I’m not going to see him again. The joy that he brought in our lives is now a thing of the past. May his soul rest in peace,” the sobbing mother said.
She added that she still feels that the Department of Education needs to take responsibility for what happened to her son.
“The department really needs to show us that what happened was not their intention and that they really care. I want them to do something to acknowledge that they take responsibility for what had happened because if it was not for that sewerage pit that was not covered, this incident would not have happened. And I want them to tell me if they were waiting for my child to die in that sewerage before they could cover it,” she said.
North West police spokesperson, Brigadier Sabata Mokgwabone, refuted claims that the police failed to respond to the incident.
“We can confirm that an inquest docket has been opened for investigation after a four-year-old boy fell into a sewerage pit on Sunday. Subsequent to the assessment of the scene by the police, including a diver and local fire services officials, it was concluded that there was a need for diving services of which the team thereof was assembled to remove the body the following day.
However, members of the community had a different view and demanded that the child be removed immediately, thus ignoring the danger associated with the exercise. The body was ultimately removed after a member of the community designed a wooden apparatus which was finally used to search and bring up the body which was then removed from the drain,” said Mokgwabone.
MEC for Education Wendy Matsemela earlier sent a message of condolences to the family.