An urban Myth Debunked.
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In early December 2022, newspapers, radio and TV carried lurid reports of the alleged drowning deaths of 15 people and a baby on Saturday 3 December in a baptism ceremony “in the Jukskei River”. The tragedy was said to have been in Bramley Park. EMS searched for bodies around Grayston Drive, Innesfree Park, the 8th and 12th Avenue Rivonia bridges, and as far as the N1 / Witkoppen Road area.
The tragedy in fact took place in the Sandspruit, not the Jukskei.
That weekend, the Sandspruit Friends WhatsApp group was full of reports of helicopters flying over and search teams combing “our” river.
The source of the misinformation lies (forgive the pun) with Robert Mulaudzi, Spokesperson of the City of Johannesburg (CoJ) Emergency Management Services (EMS). In his briefings like this one to the SABC, Mr Molaudzi steadfastly maintained the fiction that it was in the Jukskei. The media seem to have accepted it, parrot-fashion. Not a single journalist took the time to do a five-minute fact-check on maps (see below) or on the ground.
Ironically, the Sandton Chronicle carries the name of Sandton, which itself is named after the Sandspruit. Yet its staff don't seem to know the geography of its own area.
This has created a degree of confusion. Some people may now think that the river that flows through Sandton in the Morningside/Rivonia area is the Jukskei river. This page aims to set the record straight.
The Sandspruit is a tributary of the Braamfontein Spruit, which is a tributary of the Jukskei River. The rivers are clearly distinct from each other, though their catchments are adjacent.
The Sandspruit rises in the Wilds and flows northwards past Killarney Mall, next to the M1 Motorway (the parkland was cheaper to build the road on). It runs past Bramley Park where the baptism drownings occurred, past Innesfree Park and Ullmann Park. It runs through Morningside and past Rivonia (8th and 12th Ave). It goes under the N1 Highway and Witkoppen Road and then into the Braamfontein Spruit before the grounds of Leeuwkop Prison.
Here is part of Topographical map 2628AA. It shows the Sandspruit (name circled)
between Rivonia Road and Bowling Ave.
Woodmead, Rivonia and Morningside are visible. Unfortunately, on Google Maps it is not labelled. The M1 Motorway Woodmead interchange is on the extreme right in brown.
On the other hand, the Jukskei River rises in the Bruma area and flows northwards through Gillooly's farm. After Alexandra (between East Bank and West Bank), it goes through Buccleuch and into Midrand (Waterfall area) where it turns west. The Braamfontein Spruit flows into it in the grounds of Leeuwkop Prison before it joins the Crocodile river.
Below is part of Topographical map 2628AA . It shows the Jukskei River (circled in red) downstream of Alexandra, alongside the N3 Freeway in the areas of Marlboro, Kelvin and Buccleuch. It is also labelled as such on Google Maps: The M1 Motorway Woodmead interchange is on the left in brown.
Louis Botha Avenue / Pretoria Main Road runs approximately along the watershed between the two catchments. The pioneers sensibly built it on the high ground for the best drainage. Areas just west of Louis Botha Avenue (like Bramley Park) drain into the Sandspruit. East of Louis Botha Avenue, including Alexandra, drains into the Jukskei.
Because of its longer watercourse and flowing through Alexandra, the Jukskei is a polluted river. The Sandspruit does carry chemicals from the Wynberg industrial area, and the odd sewage spill, but overall it is a healthier river to baptise in. And hence also for the unwary to drown in.
Click here for the Sandspruit Hiking Trail.
Click here for notes on the Sandspruit in the urban context.
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