Last week, 12 year old Karen Pienaar, a grade seven student at Skukuza Primary School, in all probability saved the life of six year old Mbongeni Mnisi, a grade one student at the same school. The swimming pool at Skukuza staff village was well utilised on a very hot Sunday, January 15, 2007.
Around 17h00, one of the swimmers noticed a child lying still on the floor of the swimming pool. Dr Holger Eckhart immediately dived into the pool and drew the child, who was no longer breathing, out. He asked bystanders if anybody had any first aid experience.
Karen, who has received coaching in swimming for the last two years at Sanswem in Skukuza, stepped forward. She turned Mbongeni's head to the side and while she encouraged Mbongeni to start breathing, started to apply first aid.
Within a few minutes, water and foam came from the patient's mouth and he started breathing on his own. Eckhart then took him to Dr Russouw Ferreira who admitted that Karen probably saved his life through her selfless deed. Part of Karen's swimming coaching included life saving skills. In 2006, she received the trophy as the best student in the life-saving course presented by Sanswem.
On Sunday December 10, 2006 Abraham Mkhonto, a driver at Mopani camp, and his wife, Nthombi, left Mathiane village to return to Kruger for the working week that lay ahead. They entered the Park at Punda Maria Gate and were on their way towards Shingwedzi Camp when they came across a colleague, Albert Maluleke, who was stuck on the side of the road. Albert is based at Stoltznek and was on his way back there when his car broke down and he was standing on the side of the road waiting for someone to come to his aid.
They were not very successful in helping him and ended up in the same boat when their own car failed to start when they wanted to leave. While waiting for help, Nthombi announced she had to heed a call of nature and walked into the veld, warning the men not the follow. They became alarmed when they could not see her and when they could not find her anywhere.
These are the events as reported to Shingwedzi section ranger, Agnes Mukondeleli, whom the men contacted when they realised Nthombi has disappeared. Agnes contacted Reckson Seane, Vlakteplaas section ranger, to assist with the search as the incident occurred in his region.
"We found Nthombi's clothes about 300m from the road," said Agnes. The clothes were not torn or shredded as they would have been if Nthombi had been in a struggle with a person or animal. She had disappeared dressed in her underwear and shoes. Both section rangers deployed their field rangers to search for her. They called in the Sanparks helicopter team that arrived at 15h00, as well as the Saselemani police officers to assist.
The dog unit was sent in the following day but too much time had passed after her disappearance. According to the rangers they did pick up her spoor where it crossed into one of the other sections about five km from where she disappeared, but that was the last sign of her that they had found.
The search team alerted residents of villages on the western border to be on the lookout for her and continued to search the area until Thursday, December 14 when the search was called off. At this stage it appears that Nthombi has disappeared without a trace.