A father is traumatised after having to battle a raging river in the rain to retrieve the body of his 12-year-old son as KwaZulu-Natal experienced its most violent storm in years
Njabulo Phehlukwayo watched television intently following the developments about the storm, as rain battered down outside his home.
Little did the self-employed father of six know that just a few hours later, he would be frantically searching for his son in the Ngxangxasi River nearby.
Phehlukwayo’s son Lwandile Kowa was among the storm’s eight victims, a death toll that is expected to rise in the coming days.
“I was at home watching news and I saw the disaster on the television. I received a call from my aunt’s phone. It was my sister. She told me there is a disaster that happened.”
His son, who was visiting a friend, was trapped under a bridge in the river.
‘People just watching’
Phehlukwayo’s parenting instincts immediately kicked in.
“That is when I got up, put on my overalls and ran. When I got there I saw people just watching.”
The father screamed at those watching, demanding that they help. “I told them you have to look for my child. They told me the water was too strong.”
Without so much as a thought, the desperate father jumped into the raging river in the midst of the torrential rain.
“I took off my overalls and went in.”
Despite his bravery, Phehlukwayo understood that the current was far too strong. “When I got into the water I realised that it was too much and I was going to get swept away.”
Unrelenting, he asked people nearby to get a rope for him to tie around his waist. After fastening the rope, he continued searching for the boy.
‘This was too traumatic’
Eventually, he noticed his son’s lifeless body stuck in a tree. He spent about four hours attempting to retrieve the youngster’s body.
“I saw the body near a tree. For three or four hours I kept going in and out to try to get his body, but I could not.”
Together with a crowd of people, Phehlukwayo resolved to tie the rope to the tree.
“We pulled and tugged and then the body came loose and drifted to the side on the river bank.”
Phehlukwayo said he would always be scarred by the incident.
“I also lost my father this year. I was just getting over that when this happened. This was too traumatic. It is too hard. It is not even easy to sleep. I sleep intermittently.
“The family is not taking it well. All we can hope for is that he is in a better place.”