On Saturday, 21st December, I joined a team of dedicated volunteers on an outreach to the townships in the local area. We visited the Fairbreeze community, where 6-year-old Nokubonga Ngidi was recently swept away by the Mazibuko River which runs through Tongaat.
A tragic accident, the loss of an innocent young life, a heartbroken family, and a helpless community opens up to Captain Pillay’ team and myself. Nokubonga was known by everyone in the community as a full of joy and kind-hearted child. ‘Nokubonga was a special, delightful child. Always helping out, tidying up around the house, and looking after other younger children from the community’, tells her aunt. At school Ngidi’s was known for her kind nature, and her selfless readiness to help others, even if it got her into trouble with the teachers.
In the early afternoon on Thursday 12th December, Nokubonga was playing on the river bank with some other children, when she accidentally slipped and fell into the raging water and was swept away! In desperation, Nokubonga’s distraught family contacted the local SAPS division for help, and a rescue search team was immediately dispatched to search for the little girl.
The heavy rains from previous days had had significantly raised the water level, making the current stronger than usual, but what made the rescue team’s efforts, even more challenging, was the horrendous large amount of plastic pollution and other debris, which had been deposited all along the river bank.
A joint effort and close collaboration from the IPSS Security and SGT Clinton Odayar of Umhlali K9 Search and Rescue, searched day and night for Nokubonga with no success. On 11 am Sunday 15th December, the four-day search ended when Nokubonga’s lifeless body was finally recovered from under a blanket of plastic and rubbish, just less than a kilometre from her home. ‘This is not the first time something like that has happened, and the conditions of the river are only getting worse,’ said a woman from Fairbreeze.