Makana municipality blamed for boy's death in playground
Makana municipality has been blamed for the death of a four-year-old boy who was crushed by a playground swing in Riebeek East at the weekend.
Lisekhona Bouwer was playing with his older siblings on Saturday when the swing collapsed and fell on him.
Residents of the town, about 40km from Makhanda, frequently complained about the poor state of the playground equipment, and local DA ward councillor Cary Clark warned the municipality that the facility needed urgent attention.
Lisekhona's aunt, Nomakhaya Bouwer, could barely contain her anger when she spoke to the Dispatch on Monday.
“We are hurt and furious as the municipality is aware that these swings in the park were a danger to our children,” Bouwer said.
Provincial police spokesperson Colonel Sibongile Soci confirmed that an inquest docket had been opened and the case was under investigation by Riebeek East police.
“It is alleged that the deceased was playing with friends at the playground when a steel framed jungle gym fell over and landed on him. He sustained injuries on the upper body and was certified dead at the scene.”
Clark said she had repeatedly reported the poor state of the playground equipment to the municipality over several years.
She said the municipality was to blame for the tragedy.
“I have been reporting this issue as a safety concern, warning that someone was going to be hurt if things were not addressed. I've been doing this for years now and I have taken the matter to highest levels that I could,” she said.
Makana municipality had to take responsibility and be held accountable, she said.
“They must not keep reacting to disasters, but focus on preventing disasters. It cannot be that someone must die before you do what you supposed to do.”
Bouwer, who works at a local community creche, said: “We reported this to the municipality. We knew it was dangerous but I didn't know it would kill my nephew.”
The Dispatch has seen a series of e-mails between Clark and municipal officials. Some date back to 2015.
In one of the e-mails from 2015, she writes that contractors working at the local library are leaving rubble in the park. She complains the park is dangerous yet children are still playing there.
“Your assistance in fixing up the park, painting and landscaping it as well as putting in a bench and a rubbish bin would be much appreciated,” she writes.
The follow year in 2016, she reminds the municipality that nothing has been done at the park.
“Because (of) the failed road project in the location and the building of the new library where the old creche was, the two functional play parks have become a hazard and dangerous to the children as they were damaged while work was being done there. The equipment is now lying broken and is an eyesore and dangerous.”
She also calls on officials to inspect the equipment to see if it can be salvaged.
“Can the municipality please make arrangements to remove the old broken equipment as it looks unsightly and the children still play on it and it is dangerous. Your urgent assistance in this regard would be much appreciated,” she wrote.
In January 2017, she once again calls on the municipality to “clean up the rubble and fix the children’s play park in Riebeek East.”
On that occasion, municipal official Mandisi Planga responds, saying: “Early last year, Clark also wrote to the municipality about the same problems ... I would really appreciate a site visit ... so that we can try to see how we can get this sorted out ... I think we will probably also need Jeff (Budaza) to attend or someone from Parks.”
Budaza then responds: “I think this matter requires attention by infrastructure as they work with the contractors.”
Coenraad Hanekom from the municipality responds to Budaza asking for action and warning of litigation. “Please give urgent attention to this as it is a potential litigation issue.”
Budaza responds that the infrastructure department was supposed to deal with the matter as per procedure. “Everything in Riebeek East is to be reported to the manager Nosipho Kulati. As (the) Parks Department we come in as a back-up to them when the matter is beyond their capacity.”
Makana spokesperson Anele Mjekula said he would attempt to get comment from municipal officials, but this had not been received at the time of writing.
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