Botswana Defence Force and Botswana Police service scuba divers have on Wednesday this week, recovered a canoe which capsized Saturday morning in Okavango River. However the body of a 22-year-old man who drowned when the bad went under is yet to be found.
For the past five days, the scuba divers and Kauxwi community have been searching the waters and the river banks for the missing man.
“On Saturday around 11 in the morning I received a call that someone has drowned. I immediately went to the riverside and found a crowd. The one who was with him said they were trying to cross the river to the other end for fishing. When they were in the middle of the river the water started rising and causing raging waves,” explained village chief, Kgosi Simon Kambango.
The young men fought a losing battle, trying to empty the canoe but more water kept filling in and they allegedly jumped out just in time before the canoe disappeared under the waves.
“They are strong swimmers so they swam to the river bank, but as this one reached the bank and reached for the ground for support so that he can pull himself out of the water, suddenly a strong wave swept him back into and under the water,” explained Kambango.
The other young man however survived and lived to tell the story.
“We are still searching for him. The part of the river where they were is one of the dangerous crossing points which the public is prohibited from entering because its deep. The water in that area is always raging in waves,” added Kambango.
He further explained that historically there are identified dangerous spots along the river and the public should take heed to stay away from these spots, “We know they want to fish and harvest other natural resources, the river is ours, but we pray and advice the community to be extra careful .”
Meanwhile officer commanding for Shakawe policing area, Victor Nlebesi has advised residents to find an alternative and safer way of fishing other than traditional canoes which are susceptible to capsizing and causing fatal accidents, especially in the Okavango River channel.
“There are hippos and big crocodiles in this river. Even during the search we found these big and dangerous animals. Hippos charge, usually hitting the canoes and boats with their heads. These kind of accidents are very common in our area,” Nlebesi explained.
On Wednesday the canoe was found in the river somewhere between Kauxwi and Shakawe and Nlebesi appealed to communities along the Okavango River to help with the search and to be extra careful around the water.