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Mother, newborn twins swept away by raging river

by Sunday Express
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… as woman’s sister also drowns in one of the worst tragedies to strike Thabana-Morena

Pascalinah Kabi

A MOTHER and her three-day old twin sons, as well as her sister, drowned in Moketa River on Wednesday night in one of the worst tragedies to hit Thabana-Morena in Mafeteng district.

The first-time mother had given birth by caesarean section at Tšepong Hospital and was on her way home to Ha-Panta village in Thabana-Morena in the company of her sister when they were swept away by the raging river.

The mother’s body was recovered on Friday evening at the confluence of Qhoqhoane and Makhaleng rivers, and the search for the three other bodies continued yesterday.

Ha Panta councilor, Maisaka Fuufu, yesterday told the Sunday Express that the entire village had been left devastated by the tragic incident.

“A boy from the neighbouring Ha-Lengolo village was walking along Moketa river bank at around 10 on Thursday morning when he noticed a blanket which had a safety pin on, an indication that the owner had not removed it. The boy suspected the owner could have drowned and he immediately raised the alarm. One of the villagers identified the blanket, and said she had lent it to the two females the previous night. She said the women were on their way from Mafeteng town, and had refused to spend the night in Ha-Lengolo because of the traditional belief that nursing mothers and newborn babies must never spend a night away from home,” Ms Fuufu said.

“The Ha-Lengolo chief immediately wrote a letter to his Ha-Panta counterpart, informing him of the discovery and a search party was assembled.

“We started the search on Thursday and recovered the woman’s body yesterday evening. The search for the other three bodies resumed this morning, but we are all devastated by this tragedy.”

Councilor Fuufu said the family of the deceased was just “numb”.

“On Thursday, I went to the family to offer my condolences and the sisters’ mother was just numb. She never uttered a word but you would tell she was in shock; she was in pain,” Ms Fuufu said.

What made the situation even worse was the family’s son, who was a student at Lerotholi Polytechnic, died during the school’s infamous initiation, in 2014, Ms Fuufu added.

“This family has been dealt yet another blow. It has not even recovered from the untimely death of their son who drowned in 2014 during an initiation ceremony for first-year Fokothi learners. So you can understand what the family is going through, because they have now lost three children in a space of two years,” Ms Fuufu said.

According to Ms Fuufu, the sister who had been sent by the family to collect her sibling in Mafeteng town had a seven-month old baby. She had left the baby at home when she went to collect her sister and her two sons and hoped to return home the same day.

“One can never describe the pain this family is going through,” Ms Fuufu said.

She also lamented government’s failure to build a footbridge across Moketa River which she said could have saved the lost innocent lives. She also said the local community faces many hardships each time the river is in flood.

“Initially we were told that road construction that was going on in this area was going to include the building of footbridges across Moketa, but we were surprised to hear later on that the contractor had completed his 40-kilometre road-works before arriving in Moketa,” said Ms Fuufu.

“We sent some council members to the contractor to seek answers, but what they told us did not make sense. We really don’t understand why such a life-saving project was abandoned and we hope these latest deaths will push those in power to do something about our plight.”

Ms Fuufu said Makhoaba Primary School students were constantly losing their property to the river while being swept away and fighting for their lives.

“Makhoaba is located right in the middle of Ha-Panta and Majakaneng villages and that is the only nearby school for our children,” she said.

A Ha-Panta villager, ‘Malerato Matli, on Friday described the incident as “the most shocking deaths we have experienced in this village because we have never lost four family members at the same time”.

Ms Matli continued: “The woman had come to her maternal home here in Ha-Panta for traditional nursing-mother assistance (ho behoa setsoetse) because the young girl was married to a family from Malumeng.

“There is a very long distance between the last public transport stop in Majakaneng and Ha-Panta. I am sure it took them longer given that the new nursing mother might have been in pain as we know that a C-Section is very painful.”

Another villager, ‘Matholang, said: “The new mother was recently married and these were her first children. She was still very young and we are all shocked by what happened. They must have died one of the most painful deaths one can ever imagine.

“I just wish they had never attempted to cross this river; they are not the first ones to be taken by this river. I know it is a terrible thing to say, but they won’t be the last for as long as there is no footbridge across this river.”

Maralleng councilor, Rakoti Macheli, also said the deaths had left the rest of the community apprehensive and terrified to cross the river.

“We are shocked. The whole village and surrounding areas are in mourning. This family is unlucky and it is beyond our understanding how this happened. The four are the latest members of this family to have drowned,” Mr Macheli said.

The councilor called on government urgently construct footbridges across Moketa River to save innocent souls.

“No one can dispute the fact that we desperately need water but every time it rains heavily, the whole of Thabana-Morena becomes fearful. We are scared for our children who cross the river twice a day to and from school, and we fear for our livestock, which is swept away.

“We recently lost two young boys aged 10 and 12 in the same river; the boys were on their way from school. Unless we get the footbridges that we were promised, we will continue to lose lives and hopefully, the authorities are going to do something about the bridges as a matter of urgency.”


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