Tragedy has struck a Christian community in South Africa’s capital city of Cape Town after three people drowned during a baptism ceremony. While conducting the baptism, two people reportedly struggled in the strong currents. When a third member of St. Paul’s Apostolic Faith Mission Church dived in to help rescue the men, he too was swept away by a strong rip current.
“These were my children. They were the pillars of our church,” Reverend Luvo Valela told IOL.
National Sea Rescue Institute station commander, Vaugh Seconds‚ explained that his duty crew had been activated at 8.01 a.m. on Sunday by the Transnet National Ports Authority following reports from Metro Control (WC Government Health EMS) of a drowning at Monwabisi, as reported by Dispatch Live.
“On arrival on the scene we found one adult male was out of the water and confirmed to be deceased and two adult males remained missing in the surf,” Seconds explained. “It appears that the three men may have been swept out to sea by rip currents during a baptism ceremony in the surf.”
“During an extensive sea and shoreline search a police dive unit located and recovered the body of one of the missing men and Police divers are continuing an ongoing search operation for the remaining missing man‚” he added.
A preacher who was present during the incident, Luphumzo Sixisha, told IOL what happened:
“Each year, we go to the beach where we perform our baptism ceremony, this one was no different. In fact the ceremony itself was successful. However, as the pastor was telling us to leave and we started making our way out of the water. Themba Alipheli Klaas (one of the deceased) screamed for help as he was experiencing difficulties.”
“Awonke, went in to assist but he too was overwhelmed by difficulties. We tried going in but the waves were too strong. All we could see was their hands and sometimes heads as the waves kept pushing them further away,” he said.
Valela said he had performed many baptism services at Monwabisi Beach without any trouble, and the situation did not appear dangerous at first.
“We did not go deep into the water. The water went to our waist,” he said.
Dyason detailed that baptisms are relatively commonplace on that stretch of coastline across the False Bay, but stated that this is not the first time Christians have fallen victim to the sea.
“I was in St. James this morning and I saw another baptism being conducted there‚” Dyason added. “It’s not the first time that people drown during these baptisms. The water at Monwabisi generally is very dangerous; you have undercurrents and rip tides.”
A local lifeguard official called baptisms at the beach “a recipe for disaster.”
“It is one of the most dangerous beaches in South Africa,” said Mziwoxolo Mayedwa, who leads Monwabisi Surf Lifesaving and is chairperson of Lifesaving Western Province. The Church reportedly conducted the baptisms before the lifesaving staff had come on duty, therefore delaying rescue efforts.
This beach needs extra attention and we need to look at extending the operating hours of lifeguards,” Mayedwa told News24.
“We had a tragic incident at Monwabisi this weekend where three people drowned,” Mayoral committee member JP Smith said Monday. “We will do everything possible to prevent further incidents.”