In the wake of the Safer Festive Season campaign launched on 21 October 2023, the South African Police Service Gauteng Water Policing and Diving Services have undertaken a formidable effort, recovering twenty-eight bodies from various locations across Gauteng.
Between 24 November and 30 November, 2023, team members responded to three separate incidents in Gauteng, successfully recovering three bodies.
One notable incident occurred in Pretoria Moot, where Tshwane members attended to a scene involving a worker who had allegedly drowned in a swimming pool. The worker, missing since Saturday, was found floating in the pool on Monday morning.
Simultaneously, Ekurhuleni members were dispatched to Heidelberg on the same day, recovering the decomposed body from the Blesbokspruit River. The Sedibeng members retrieved the body of an unknown male from the Vaal River around Dickenson Park.
Inquest dockets for these cases are currently under investigation. Individuals who have information that can help in these incidents are encouraged to contact the relevant SAPS station or Crime Stop at 08600 10111.
The Gauteng Water Police and Diving Services comprise of forty-one (41) members, including support staff and vessel handlers, with thirty-five (35) actively serving as divers. Their duties include participating in operations to recover drowned victims and exhibits. Beyond this, they contribute to rescues, crime prevention, exhibitions, and the policing of large events near dams and rivers.
The SAPS Water Police regularly collaborate with the SAPS K9 Search and Rescue, SAPS Air Wing, and other Gauteng Emergency Services. These collaborations play crucial roles in the extensive efforts demonstrated in the recent Klip River incident. Searches are conducted through various means, including air, canoe, boat, divers, and members on foot.
Divers employ diverse underwater techniques in dams, covering expansive areas in the search for victims. Their efforts are complemented by sniffer dogs from the K9 Search and Rescue Unit, capable of detecting gases released by a submerged body and locations identified by eye witnesses.
In light of recent incidents, the inherent dangers of rivers and dams demand renewed attention. Individuals intending to traverse rivers are urged to do so exclusively at dedicated bridges, as accidents often stem from victims being swept away by rapid currents. Those engaging in baptism rituals should be cognizant of associated risks, considering the potential contamination of Gauteng Rivers like Klip River and Juksei with sewage and chemicals, posing health hazards. The attached photos reveal the meticulous decontamination process undergone by divers and their equipment after emerging from polluted waters, emphasizing the health risks for those inadvertently exposing themselves.
Precautionary measures are emphasized to avert needless loss of life. Individuals venturing onto dams, rivers, or waters for any activity are advised to do so only with a life jacket. Parents of young children near open waters should educate them about the associated dangers and ensure constant supervision.
Witnesses to water-related incidents on dams or rivers are urged to provide multiple landmarks to pinpoint locations for immediate search and rescue efforts. With warm weather, the rainy season, and school holidays prevailing, heightened awareness is crucial to mitigate accidents. The public is reminded that fishing with nets is illegal and constitutes a criminal offense.