They were speaking to The Citizen as the search for best friends Gomolemo Mangena, 10, nine-year-old Bonolo Malemela and Neo Setlhabane, 10, entered its fifth day yesterday after the boys went missing late on Monday afternoon. The fourth friend, Tshiamo Baloyi, who was part of the group and the last person to see his friends head into the pipes, has been left traumatised after being approached to point out where he last saw them.
“He only alerted us to the boys having gone into the pipes on Tuesday morning and he has not slept since then. He wakes up in the middle of the night calling out his friends’ names,” his father Abby Baloyi said.
The boy has been put on therapy while the search for his friends in the township’s stormwater pipes and the Moretele river continued to be hampered by high water levels due to the recent rain that has left several parts of the country flooded.
The boys’ families, who have already started remembering them individually as the dancer, the cook and a masseur, yesterday told the newspaper that they were now praying for their children’s bodies to be found and returned to them.
“We have surrendered everything to God who knows what happened to the children,” said Malemela’s grandmother Jeanette Boikanyo.
“They have been missing for too many days and they are being sought in rivers… there is no way that they will be found alive. All we are praying for now is for their bones to be found so we can have closure,” she said.
Boikanyo went on to recall how her grandson had danced in his underwear much to the amusement of his family before his mother Rachel Malemela handed him his clothes after school on Monday. He put on his clothes and walked out of his home saying he was going to an outside loo and never returned.
Meanwhile, a street away, Malemela’s friend, Mangena, who was grounded at the time and was not allowed to go play in the streets, had sneaked out of his home.
“The last person to see him was his aunt who spotted him standing on top of a neighbour’s wall a couple of houses away,” his mother Susan Mangena said.
“The aunt called out to him to come back home, but he jumped off the wall and no one saw him again after that. He was such a playful child who would offer to massage my feet when I complained that they hurt,” the mother said.
“It has been hard not knowing what happened to him. I am ready for anything. Whatever has happened to him, it would have been God’s will,” Susan Mangena said.
Setlhabane’s mother, Moloko Setlhabane said: “I was still hopeful on Tuesday that the children might be found alive, but as days passed and the rain continued, I started to accept whatever may have happened to my child.”
The mother had left her child in the care of her sister Rebecca Setlhabane, who said the boy who loved to play big brother to his younger sibling to an extent of cooking for him, had disappeared quickly after he had come home from school.
“He went to a relative’s house after school where he had lunch before coming back home. But he walked in, took off his school uniform and disappeared,” she said.
Police continued to search the Moretele river with help from community members yesterday without any luck. The search was again called off to allow water levels in some parts of the river to subside.
Captain Johannes Maheso said police will continue to monitor the water levels to ensure that the search resumes when conditions are safe to do so.
Monday: Boys from Pula Difate and Boikgantsho primary schools in Mamelodi East go missing after re-entering a stormwater pipe on Magagula Street after having first entered the pipes along Tsomo Street
Tuesday: Police begin searching for the missing boys and one of the boys’ muddy jacket is found near the Moretele river before a fourth boy alerts his parents that he was with them when they went missing
Wednesday: Fourth boy points out the spot in a stormwater pipe where his friends had gone in and police go through just under a kilometre of underground pipes in search of the boys
Thursday: Police lead the search party, that included the Tshwane emergency services, K9 search and rescue unit, divers, dog unit and some community members through parts of the Moretele river, which stretches to Kamelsdrift
Friday: The search continues into the Moretele river, but it is called off in the afternoon due to high water levels in the area