Family seeks closure after son is swept away by river

Family seeks closure after son is swept away by river

MASERU – IT has been two weeks since Tšeliso Lekhoakhoa was swept away by the raging Mohokare River. His body is yet to be found and his family is struggling to come to terms with the incident.
The 17-year-old’s last words were ‘mpholoseng’, meaning ‘rescue me’, as a huge tide covered his head while he waved his hands in a frantic call for help.
At first, his family refused to believe that Tšeliso had drowned because swimming was not his thing.

“It was not common for him to go swimming,” said his cousin, Teboho Lekhoakhoa.
“When the sad news reached us, we could not believe it . . . that he had drowned and that we will never see him again,” Teboho said.
Now, the family just wants closure.

“The only thing that can console us is news that his body has been found so that he is buried in a dignified way, according to the customs and rituals of our Makhoakhoa clan,” said Teboho.
thepost visited the village chief in Ha-Tsolo village, about 10 kilometres south-west of Maseru’s city centre this week. Villagers were still shaken, with many expressing concern that children have been drowning in the river for years.

Witnesses said Tšeliso was swimming in the river with friends but got tired and failed to swim out.
“He drowned and resurfaced three times before submerging into the river for good,” a witness said.

His friends tried without success to pull him out of the water because the tide was too strong for them.
Witnesses said they advised Tšeliso to hold on to a willow tree that was in the river so that they could form a helpline but it was in vain.
“He was swept past the tree,” a witness said.
He drowned and they never saw him again.

The chief and the police launched the search party but the body is still nowhere to be found.
So deep is the family’s desperation that some members even travelled to South Africa where there is a dam that feeds from the river.
Teboho, the cousin, said they will continue with the search until they find his body.

Tšeliso was living with his 81-year-old grandmother after his single mother died when he was just four months old. The young man was going into Grade 9 at Lesia High School.
Since it started raining heavily two months ago, cases of people who have been swept away by rivers or drowned in dams are on the increase.
In Tšeliso’s case, a bright future has been dimmed. Relatives and villagers said the young man had big dreams and one of them was to become a football star.
In the village, people knew him for his passion for football.

Many said he would have become a successful football player had his life not been cut short.
“He was best known as a football player,” Teboho said, adding that Tšeliso was playing for the local team.
In another incident, a 9-year-old girl from Ha-Leohla in Thaba-Tseka was swept away by Matsoku River last Friday.
According to a local villager, ’Mapeiso Moeketsi, the girl was coming from school with two boys when they found the bridge submerged in water.
They were all Grade 3 students from Moferefere Primary School.

Moeketsi said the girl was afraid and refused to cross the bridge while the two boys crossed and waited for her on the other side.
Tragedy only struck when the girl’s lunchbox fell into the river and, in trying to pick it she fell in the overflowing river.
Suddenly, a heavy wave came her way and swept her away.

The boys rushed home to report the matter and the police were also informed.
“The police divers said they would be back in two days but they never showed up,” Moeketsi said.
Moeketsi said villagers went to the river to look for the girl but failed to locate her.
The girl is still missing,” she said.

What they only got was the girl’s jacket, her pen, a pair of socks and her schoolbag.
Police are also searching for a man from Butha-Buthe Ha-Ngoajane who was swept away together with his horse.
In another case, police found the body of an 11-year-old boy who drowned in a dam in Tsikoane, Leribe.

Police spokesperson Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli has warned people of the dangers of playing, crossing or swimming in rivers and dams during this time after heavy rains.
Supt Mopeli said police have embarked on awareness programmes to sensitise people on how to swim or rescue a drowning person. He said they also visit schools to teach students how to swim.
According to the latest World Health Organisation (WHO) data published in 2017, drowning accounts for 0.38 percent of total deaths recorded in the country. Lesotho ranks number 81 in the world in drowning deaths. In 2012, the Lesotho Royal Life-saving Association (RLLA) enrolled about 15 high school students in lifesaving training after realising the rising number of incidents of children drowning while swimming in rivers and unprotected ponds and dams. The association then said drowning was among the key causes of death for minors in the country.

’Makhotso Rakotsoane

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