fourteen drown in Boteti River


published: Friday, 19 August 2011
by Ryder Gabathuse

RAKOPS: Rakops station commander Superintendent Onneetse Dumelang has warned residents here about the danger of swimming in the flooded Boteti River.

Speaking to Mmegi on Tuesday, Dumelang said it could be suicidal to attempt to swim in the river as it has been dry for nearly 20 years now.

“Those who used to swim in the river could have well forgotten how to swim after 20 years of not swimming regularly. I want to advise people to stay away from the river and do something else,” he said.

BDF airboat at Rakops | Boteti River

BDF airboat at Rakops | Boteti River

His worry stems from the fact that since April last year, the first time the river experienced heavy in-flows to date, 14 people have drowned in the river. Of the 14 victims, six drowned this year. Five of them were males and one female.

In one of the incidents, a 32-year-old woman was guiding a 16-year-old on how to swim before she slipped and drowned. Two others were trying to swim whilst another was a illegal Zimbabwean immigrant fleeing from the police and drowned in the river.

“There are people who continue to take chances. They think that they can swim in the river when they cannot,” said Dumelang adding that the police have mounted a massive educational campaign to educate the people on the dangers of swimming in the river.

“We tell them to stay away from the flooded river but our efforts seem to be falling on deaf ears as we still have people drowning at different points along the river.” Dumelang stated that everyday his office deploys officers along the river in Rakops and remain on the lookout to dissuade people from swimming or from trying to cross the flooded river.

He said their efforts are not helped by the fact that a Botswana Defence Force (BDF) airboat transporting villagers in Rakops from one side to another knocks off at 6 pm. “But there are people who socialise until very late and when they realise that the boat has knocked off, they want to take chances thereby endangering their lives,” said the police boss.

He was worried that come weekend, a lot of people crowd around the river especially near the closed motor bridge where they now throw parties, roasting meat and making a lot of noise from their motor vehicles. On the riverbank, there are abandoned fireplaces and empty beer cans and bottles strewn all over.

Last year October when he was transferred to Rakops, Dumelang said the water level was still very low but things changed in February as the water level has been rising ever since.

View Boteti River in a larger map

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