South Africa News

Family blame officials for child’s death after pallet of bricks fell on him while playing

The family of seven-year-old Ahlumile Tshaka, who died when a pallet of bricks fell on him while playing with friends at half-built structures at Asizani in Thembalethu, want the George municipality held liable for his death.

They have now begun the process of suing the municipality.

On September 23, the boy was playing with friends at the site and apparently slipped and fell. Bricks fell on him.

“The structures he was playing at are very close to our home. He slipped and fell because the bricks were loose, they fell on top of him. When I got there he was already dead. He died on the spot,” said Ahlumile’s grandfather Ntsikelelo Mqhokrwana.

When an ambulance arrived and took Ahlumile’s body to the hospital, officials from the municipality said the family should take the body to a mortuary and they would pay for the funeral arrangements, he said.

“The mortuary spoke with the mayor, they exchanged emails and the mayor was given all the arrangements that were needed. The cost for the mortuary was R19 800. The mortuary phoned the Mayor, Leon van Wyk, who promised they would assist. They told the mayor that by Thursday everything should be paid for and ready for the burial which would be on Saturday.

“But on Thursday the mayor changed his story and said they would do a donation because (the municipality) was not involved,” Mqhokrwana said.

The family had to make last-minute arrangements for the burial.

“We were thinking the municipality would pay for the burial, and now we couldn’t change the date so we had to put together whatever we had to bury him.

“The municipality promised us a donation and the donation was R800. Another donation came for R2 000. The municipality changed what they told us.

“There was no protection on that site. I am claiming for the life of my grandson. We are no longer claiming for the funeral of our child. Now we are claiming for the life of our child,” he said, adding that preparations were being made regarding the claim.

Thembalethu ward 21 councillor Rose James said the mayor had abandoned the family despite promising to assist.

“The municipality neglected the family. The day we were burying the child, lorries came and started to remove the structures – the same structures I had been reporting about. A life had to be lost for them to take action,” she said.

The municipality said a contractor was appointed to build 33 houses in the area, starting in April 2019. It could not complete the project within the contract period, and the contract was terminated in December.

A commitment by the contractor to demolish the half-built structures did not materialise and a process was initiated to get the project back on track.

The provincial Department of Human Settlements appointed a new contractor on September 1 this year to demolish the half-built structures and to complete the rest of the houses in the project, said the municipality.

George Mayor Leon van Wyk said in all discussions held with the councillors, it was made clear that the municipality could not contribute to the family and any action taken could only be within what was legally permitted.

“I was informed about this tragic death by (George Municipality director of Human Settlements Charles Lubbe) on Friday and extended my sympathies to the family on the sad loss of their son.

“The circumstances were also discussed. I also spoke to a number of ANC

councillors in the days following and have personally made a contribution to funeral costs, along with councillor colleagues,” he said.

Human Settlements MEC Tertius Simmers said following the termination of the contract of the previous contractor, Makhare Holding, the municipality requested the department to take over the contract to complete the units.

Selly Rammese of Makhare Holding said the houses had been vandalised, causing them to weaken.

“My contract was terminated. Maybe that’s the reason why I was not informed because I am not part of it. On March 20 we had a meeting with the municipality to discuss all the matters related to the contract termination. It was decided that the municipality will do their own report as to whether the contract was fairly terminated or not,” he said.

Rammese said on Monday that George officials indicated that they were still busy with the report.

“So there was no need to demolish the houses until the report from the municipality was issued. I was told that because of the lockdown, the report had been delayed,” he said.

-Cape Times

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