Family in shock after search for Khomanani Mawa ends in tragedy

For a few days Khomamani Mawa’s family held on to hope and prayed for a miracle. But it was not to be.

Forensic Pathology Services load little Khomanani Mawa's body into their vehicle after it was retrieved from the Evaton sewerage system on 8 September 2021. Mawa fell into a manhole near his Orange Farm home on 5 September 2021. Picture: Edwin Ntshidi/Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - The family of six-year-old Khomanani Mawa, whose body has now been found almost four days after he fell into an open manhole in Orange Farm, are still processing his death and what to make of the circumstances.

On Sunday afternoon, Mawa was playing with friends who later reported that he had fallen into the uncovered chamber.

A frantic and exhaustive operation involving dozens of people soon began to try find him. His body was recovered on Wednesday in Evaton from a flowing sewage.

READ: Child's body retrieved from Evaton sewerage system identified as Khomanani Mawa

For a few days, Mawa’s family held on to hope and prayed for a miracle. But it was not to be.

As the hours passed, they knew that chances of his survival were slim especially in the harsh underground system.

Their worst fears were realised on Wednesday when municipal teams from the City of Joburg and Emfuleni retrieved the little boy’s remains.

Partially dressed and lifeless it was all too much for those on the scene.

“The government must take responsibility, that manhole was open. I passed there and a within few minutes later, I heard that my brother’s child fell into that manhole,” said Mawa’s distraught uncle Eric Chauke.

Meanwhile, the City of Joburg said it would address the issue of uncovered manholes and other neglected infrastructure in and around Orange Farm.


Much of the blame is being placed on local government officials for the poor maintenance of resources after Mawa’s death.

Residents believe Mawa would still be alive if the manhole was covered.

It’s not just open manholes that people there have been complaining about.

The problems extend to the provision of basic services and maintenance of infrastructure critical to the area’s development and quality of life.

Residents have now been reminded of these problems with the death of Mawa this week and they’re blaming those in charge.

Joburg Mayoral Committee Member for Community Development Margaret Arnolds was on the scene when Mawa’s body was found.

While she accepts that the city may be complicit through the neglect of property, she said community members must also look after the infrastructure.

“I’m saying if it our fault, we need to take responsibility but I’m also saying education also goes with it.”

Meanwhile, Mawa’s family is now preparing to lay him to rest.

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