A soccer player with ZPC Hwange Football Club, together with his friend drowned in the Zambezi River last week Thursday and their bodies were only retrieved yesterday after a five-day search.

State media reported that the body of the football player, Thamsanqa Ncube (22) and that of Elson Mathe (24), were found floating downstream after a determined search involving the police, ZimParks rangers and guides from the Rafting Association of Zimbabwe (RAZ) led by Wild Horizons.

The search for the drowned pair started Friday last week.

They reportedly drowned at gorge number six where they had gone for swimming with a group of about 25 friends before a huge wave hit them at around 3.40pm.

Their accomplices who were close to the edge of the river managed to swim to safety.

Kayakers who were dispatched Sunday morning to look for the bodies, spotted the first one floating on the Zambian side of the river at gorge number 7B while the other was on gorge number 9 on the Zimbabwean side.

Gorge number 7B is about 3km while gorge number 9 is about 5km downstream from gorge number 6 where the duo allegedly drowned.

RAZ chairman Skinner Ndlovu led a team of guides as they sailed downstream and secured the bodies in ‘body bags’ before loading them on a raft.

They sailed further for about 10km downstream to gorge number 11 where about 60 men including villagers from nearby Monde village had gathered to help carry the bodies up the gorge.

It took about 30 minutes to reach the gorge where a police vehicle was waiting to carry the decomposing bodies to the mortuary.

Ndlovu said the mission was hectic.

“We started mobilising our team after we received a call from ZRP. We usually do it with police sub aqua but they were doing another rescue somewhere. So, we set off in conjunction with police and Zimparks and we have been sending people down the river since Friday to check until today when the first team of kayakers found them and notified us.

“We organised a few guys and went down in a raft to do the recovery of the bodies. We want to thank the effort of everyone who was involved in the operation,” said Ndlovu on Sunday.

He said the water level in the Zambezi River was still high and suitable only for high water rafting which starts from Rapid Number 11 going downstream.

He said any water activity between Rapid number 1 and rapid number 10 is dangerous.

Police who were at the scene commended efforts of members of the public particularly Monde villagers and RAZ members who include Wild Horizons, Shearwater Adventures, Adventure Zone, Shockwave and Try Rafting.

Matabeleland North police spokesperson Chief Inspector Siphiwe Makonese appealed to members of the public to desist from playing in water bodies.

“I can confirm that the bodies of the two who drowned while swimming at gorge number 6 on the Zambezi River have been retrieved this afternoon. RAZ led by Mr Skinner Ndlovu and other rafting companies, police, Zimparks rangers and Monde villagers managed to work together to retrieve the bodies from gorge number 7 and 9,” she said.

“Just last week another life was lost when a man drowned while fishing in Msuna area,” she said.

Gorge number 6 is frequented by youths for swimming and beer drinking while some Zionist and apostolic sects also conduct prayers and baptism sessions at the same place.

Early this year a man cheated death after he fell down the cliff near the same spot during a church prayer session.

In August last year, two brothers from Chidobe outside Victoria Falls drowned at Rapid Number 19 in the same river while posing for pictures.

In February last year an Israeli tourist also drowned while swimming without a life jacket under the Victoria Falls Bridge.

state media