Today, the children in Inganathi Pilisani’s Grade 5 class at Samuel Ntsiko Primary School cried all morning.
Today, the children in Inganathi Pilisani’s Grade 5 class at Samuel Ntsiko Primary School cried all morning. Inganathi, 11, drowned in Grey Dam just outside Grahamstown yesterday afternoon, Sunday 22 January.
The principal and some of the teachers were visiting Inganathi’s family this afternoon.
“We will remember him as a very meek child,” Koliti said. “He liked his work.”
He had a special relationship with his class teacher, Boniwe Ntanga, Koliti said.
“He started off quite naughty – but Mrs Ntanga took him under her wing and he liked that,” Koliti said. “From then on, he wanted to sit at the front of the class.”
Ntanga was too distraught to speak today.
Ashia Nkontsa and Praise Kafuneni were among a group of friends who went to relax at Grey Dam yesterday afternoon. When they arrived, they saw five men in the water, hands joined in a circle.
“There were children at the side of the water watching, worried,” said Kafuneni. I immediately knew something was wrong.”
The children told him that their friend had gone into the water and hadn’t come out.
“It was so strange,” Kafuneni said. “There were 30 or 40 people in different places around the dam, but it seemed like no one had realised what was happening.”
Then, a good 10 minutes later, one of the men shouted that he had found someone.
“He dived down – deep down – and came up with the child – but I think it was already too late,” said Kafuneni.
Kafuneni said he had asked around if anyone had called the police.
“I was shocked,” he said. “They didn’t realise why those people were in the water.”
He said he called 10111 and no one had answered.
“I decided to drive to the police station to find someone,” said Kafuneni, who owns a shuttle service.
“Then on the way, I saw a police van and flagged it down. I told them what had happened and asked them to come, but they said they were going to Settlers Hospital.
“I asked them to radio the control room and they said their radio was broken,” he said.
So he resumed his original plan, only to see police vehicles rushing towards the dam.
Nkontsa, whose10-year-old daughter was with her, spoke to the children who had come to swim with Inganathi and pieced together what had happened.
They'd walked to Grey Dam in yesterday’s sweltering heat. Inganathi was swimming with his best friend when he got into trouble in the water.
His friend, who is 10, raised the alarm and one of the dozens of groups braaiing and relaxing on the dam wall heard them, realised what had happened, and jumped in, joining hands and forming a circle to look for Inganathi.
“They were in the same class. They even sat at the same desk,” said Nkontsa, who later realised Inganathi was one of the children who participated in a fun day at Fiddlers Green that she organised late last year to mark International Children’s Day. Nkontsa founded the Tag a Grahamstown Child campaign.
“He and his best friend had been in the water together and when they came out, his friend thought he was still with him.
“But when he looked, he couldn’t see him,” Nkontsa said.
“There was a group of young kids at the place where they were searching.
“When they brought him out, we all did our best to save him, but I think it was already too late. By the time the police and paramedics arrived, it was over.”
Nkontsa said she thought the rescuers had been visiting from King William's Town.
"I don't know – they didn't want to talk to anyone," she said.
Police spokesperson Captain Mali Govender said in a statement yesterday that an 11-year-old boy swimming in Grey Dam had drowned around 4.30pm Sunday 22 January 2017.
She said a fellow swimmer retrieved the child’s body. At the time, Inganathi’s next of kin had not yet been informed.
Govender said an inquest docket had been opened for investigation.
Yesterday was very hot and on the Grahamstown Facebook page, residents reported 37C in Stones Hill, and 43C in Belmont Valley and on the Fort Beaufort road.
In hot weather, dozens of children walk as far as 6km to swim in the dam, around 1.5km south-west of Grahamstown.
Samuel Ntsiko principal Nombulelo Koliti said, “It’s a way of life for children ekasi – the boys go out together to look for somewhere to swim when it’s hot.
“Unfortunately, Grey Dam is the only place they have to go.”
Grahamstown does not have a public swimming pool.
Nine years, four tragedies
– On 2 April 2009, a man visiting from Port Elizabeth drowned when he went for a swim in the dam. A 73-year-old woman walking in the area jumped in and tried to save him, but failed.
– In October 2011, 14-year-old Sipho Fokile, a Grade 8 pupil at Nathaniel Nyaluza and member of the school’s under-15 rugby squad, drowned in Grey Dam while swimming with friends there on a hot day.
– On Sunday 25 January 2015, Grahamstown brothers, Simphiwe and Siyabulela Faxi, drowned at a family braai. Simphiwe went into the shallow part of the dam to rinse his face, when he got into difficulty. Seeing his brother in trouble, Siyabulela jumped into the water to try and pull him out, but he, too, started struggling in the water. A third relative followed to try and rescue the struggling brothers, but he also struggled and was dragged to safety. Simphiwe was the XI Attackers soccer team’s captain and worked at Makana Municipality's Water Department.
– On Sunday 15 March 2015, with temperatures in the mid- to high-30s, 13-year-old Devandre Heathcote, a Grade 8 pupil at Mary Waters Secondary School, drowned during an outing with his family at Grey Dam. "He swam for the first and last time. He dived into the water and never came back," said his devastated guardian. – Source: Grocott’s Mail