By Tauhierah Salie
In what has been nearly two weeks of intense searching, two bodies understood to be that of 8 year old Abieda Paulse and Yusuf Kiroboto have been found in Cape Town within hours of each other, but kilometres apart. The pair were swept away in the Vygieskraal canal on the 9th of July.
At the time, a cold front had hit the Western Cape and resulted in roofs being blown off, trees uprooted and electricity disruptions. Residents from more than a dozen informal settlements had been drenched by the storm, leaving their homes flooded and creating a renewed need for proper shelter.
It was amid these conditions, during a brief appearance of the winter sun, that innocent Abieda was playing along the Vygieskraal canal with a few friends, when she slipped and fell backward into the body of water. A bystander by the name of Yusuf, dived in, to rescue the little girl. But the current was too strong and swept both of them away.
Determined community members kept up the search for the pair, with much focus being placed on the little girl, whose parents were desperate to retrieve their child. Some community members took issue with way authorities handled the search, condemning their lack of urgency. But according to authorities, search and rescue squads had been grounded after police took over the search and began looking for bodies instead.
The body found in the Liesbeek River on Monday was identified by Abieda’s mother, Malieka Paulse, at the Mowbray mortuary. Speaking to VOC on Tuesday, Paulse was said she was too tired to give an official comment, since she had been answering reporters’ continuously since the day Abieda went missing. She, however, thanked the community for their support and prayers.
Heartbroken father Mikaeel Steenkamp, shared a similar sentiment and said that the discovery has brought him a sense of ease.
Police spokesperson FC van Wyk confirmed that a post-mortem will be conducted to determine the cause of death and identity, including that of the second body, found in the canal near Bokmakierie in Athlone on Tuesday.
Kiriboto’s brother, Musa, said that authorities had not wanted the family to look at his face, but that the clothing seen on the body belonged to his brother. The family still has not found closure they need, as he is yet to be buried, he said.
Local imam Saaligh Davids honoured the memory of Kiroboto by praising him for being hafith al-Quran, commending his contribution to the Belgravia community.
“He’s never harmed anyone. Whenever we had a programme at the mosque and made food, he would always be the last person to help clean the pots. He was a wonderful person.”