The Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources has stated that strengthening legislation is necessary in addressing illegal mining activities following the deaths of several illegal miners in disused mine shafts.
THREE Zimbabweans were confirmed dead while another narrowly survived after suffocating from a gas explosion at a disused gold mine in Johannesburg, South Africa, after they were trapped in a shaft for some days.
The deceased were trying to rescue their colleagues who had been trapped in the disused mine in Langlasgteon and there are fears more bodies could still be trapped underground as the mine accommodates between 500 and 1000 illegal foreigners who explore for gold at any given time.
Thousands of Zimbabweans live in South Africa with a majority of them engaged in illegal activities such as gold panning in very old disused mines.
It took the efforts of Zimbabweans living in South Africa to try and rescue their fellow countrymen following Wednesday last week’s incident but they could only come out with bodies.
Sources from the neighbouring country said Zimbabweans were still fighting to fish out two bodies of their colleagues from the mine after authorities from that country had abandoned the search operation.
The South African press reported Tuesday night that rescuers from the neighbouring country abandoned a search operation on Monday resulting
in Zimbabweans living in that country taking over.
People began posting on social media such as WhatsApp and facebook claiming their relatives were still missing.
More than 200 Zimbabweans were reportedly underground when the gas explosion occurred and they managed to escape leaving behind one who was trapped underground.
“It was around 4AM when an explosion took place. There were about 200 people in the shaft and a majority of them escaped while one remained behind. In the morning Zimbabweans started a search to rescue him but instead retrieved dead bodies,” said a source from South Africa.
Zimbabwe’s Consul General to South Africa, Batiraishe Mukonoweshuro, confirmed the deaths after officials from his office visited the mine Tuesday afternoon.
“We received a report about the sad news and a team went to investigate. Our hearts are heavy because of this and on behalf of the Zimbabwean government we would want to convey our deepest families for the loss,” he said.
He concurred that Fair Funeral Parlour had offered coffins and transport to Zimbabwe free of charge, as he appealed to Zimbabweans living outside the country to avoid engaging in dangerous activities.
South Africa Minister of Mines and Natural Resources, Mosebenzi Joseph Zwane, reportedly visited the ‘tragic’ mine Monday afternoon, on the day when rescuers abandoned search.
Twenty Zimbabweans volunteered to go into the shaft to search for their colleagues and the three, who were said to be from Lupane, Nkayi and Tsholotsho died.
This isn’t the first time Zimbabweans have perished while illegally mining in South Africa.
Thirteen died in a very similar manner in Benon-about 35km away from Langlaagte Mine-while in 2014 21 more died in Roadport.