No progress on miss­ing boy’s fate

CityPress - - News - POLOKO TAU poloko.tau@city­

The fam­ily of a five-year-old boy who has been miss­ing after dis­ap­pear­ing down a mine shaft 15 days ago, is still in the dark about plans to re­cover his re­mains.

The Ekurhu­leni mu­nic­i­pal­ity was go­ing to meet with the SA Na­tional De­fence Force (SANDF) on Fri­day to dis­cuss the pos­si­bil­i­ties of re­cov­er­ing the body of Richard Thole, who fell into the dis­used mine shaft in the metro on Fe­bru­ary 25. The search op­er­a­tion to find Richard was halted over a week ago.

The mu­nic­i­pal­ity said it was go­ing to be briefed by the SANDF on whether or not there were still hopes of at least re­cov­er­ing the tod­dler’s re­mains at Fri­day’s meet­ing, but spokesper­son Gugu Ndima yes­ter­day said via SMS that there had been no news on the search mis­sion. She said the SANDF was yet to re­port back to the mu­nic­i­pal­ity.

Ekurhu­leni Mayor Mzwandile Masina had asked the SANDF to as­sist after a joint search op­er­a­tion by emer­gency ser­vices and mine res­cue teams was aban­doned owing to safety con­cerns.

The army had last week gone to the shaft at Jerusalem in­for­mal set­tle­ment near Boks­burg to as­sess the area. Ndima told City Press this week that the army was ex­pected to brief the mu­nic­i­pal­ity on Fri­day.

De­fence spokesper­son Siphiwe Dlamini could not com­ment on whether they were go­ing to be able to re­trieve Richard. “This is a mul­ti­de­part­men­tal mis­sion co­or­di­nated by the mu­nic­i­pal­ity. We were only in­vited to as­sist, so the mu­nic­i­pal­ity would be the rel­e­vant peo­ple for you to talk to,” he said.

Richard’s fa­ther, Mishack Mohlala, said the fam­ily had not heard any­thing from the mu­nic­i­pal­ity since the army was brought on board.

“We are in the dark, but re­main des­per­ate to have Richard found. It is hard for us, es­pe­cially for his mother, who is not tak­ing this whole thing too well,” Mohlala said.

Some of the rea­sons the search was aban­doned in­cluded un­sta­ble ground, rock falls, mud­slides, acid mine wa­ter and gases in the shaft, which is be­lieved to be about 140m deep.

The shaft is lo­cated on the out­skirts of the in­for­mal set­tle­ment and close to Richard’s home.

“It is not easy for us go­ing to sleep know­ing that our son is still some­where deep down that hole. We find our­selves help­less and not know­ing what to do when the author­i­ties have said to us, ‘we will get back to you’.

“What does one do in this sit­u­a­tion? We ap­pre­ci­ate all the sup­port from the com­mu­nity, but our des­per­a­tion for clo­sure re­mains,” Mohlala said.

Ekurhu­leni emer­gency ser­vices spokesper­son Wil­liam Nt­ladi said last week that find­ing Richard alive was un­likely con­sid­er­ing the num­ber of days the boy had been down the shaft.

How long Richard’s fam­ily would have to wait re­mains un­known. The fam­i­lies of three work­ers who re­main trapped and are con­sid­ered dead after an of­fice con­tainer they were in was swal­lowed into the ground at Lily Mine in Mpumalanga have been wait­ing for more than a year.

Safety con­cerns also led to that search op­er­a­tion be­ing halted. The mine said it would need about R200 mil­lion to start a min­ing op­er­a­tion that would pos­si­bly help ac­cess the area where the con­tainer is be­lieved to be.

“I am pray­ing that we don’t wait any longer be­cause this thing is re­ally tak­ing a toll on Richard’s mother.

“It is dif­fi­cult for us to do any­thing – sleep or eat,” Mohlala said.

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