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Joburg launches campaign to end spate of drownings

The statistics are grim. According to the Emergency Management Services (EMS), every year about 100 people drown in Johannesburg. About a third of the victims are children aged between one and four.

Last year, the EMS responded to more than 10 drownings in the Diepsloot area alone. In February this year, six-year-old Angel Sibanda died after she was swept away while crossing the Jukskei River on her way home from school.

On Thursday October 20, the City of Johannesburg’s Member of the Mayoral Committee for Public Safety, Cllr Michael Sun, launched a Water Safety Campaign in Diepsloot in Region A.

A joint initiative with Swim SA, the campaign’s main aim is to teach children how to swim and raise water safety awareness in the City’s seven regions.

Cllr Sun, Ward 95 Councillor Kate Mphahlele, Section 79 Committees Chairman Cllr Hilton Masera, Regional Director Abigail Ndlovu, several councillors and top EMS officials were enthusiastically welcomed by dozens of learners, educators and parents when they arrived at the Diepsloot Fire Station, north of Johannesburg, for the launch of the campaign.

Cllr Sun said swimming pools, rivers and dams were dangerous, especially for people who could not swim, and needed to be avoided at all cost. He told them about how he and his brother learned how to swim at an early age.

“Most drowning incidents can be prevented by learning life-long swimming skills. We’re encouraging all schoolchildren and youth to learn how to swim. When I was your age, my father took me and my older brother to the swimming pool.

“He pushed me into the pool and I swam. It’s a natural skill and once you learn how to swim, that skill will save your life and that of another person. Promise me you will learn how to swim before the December school holidays,” he said to the learners.

Later, at the nearby Diepsloot Community Hall, Cllr Sun again emphasised the importance of water safety when he spoke to 650 learners gathered for the annual Gauteng Province International Day for Disaster Reduction, an initiative the City supports.

He said he was highly impressed by a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) demonstration by a learner at the fire station. “CPR saves lives. You must be ready to be a hero, to save someone’s life. Learn how to swim so you can help each other, your siblings and others [around pools]. Look out for one another.”

At both events, the children were entertained by two local drama groups whose messages were about water safety.

EMS Chief Tshepo Makola said hot summer months increased the demand for swimming at public pools. He said the rainy season came with an increased risk of drownings. He said the EMS was committed to reducing water-related incidents and fatalities. He emphasised that the community’s involvement was “very important”.

The water safety campaign will be taken to Linden in Region B on October 25, Florida Lake in Region C on October 27, Yeoville in Region F1 on November 1, Moffatview in Region F2 on November 2, Orange Farm in Region G2 on November 4, Moletsane, Soweto, in Region D1 on November 7 and Pimville, Soweto, in Region D2 on November 8.