A fate­ful day for Pretty Nkam­bule

Only R4.4m pledged to the 76 sur­viv­ing mine work­ers

CityPress - - News - SIZWE SAMA YENDE sizwe.yende@city­press.co.za

Pretty Nkam­bule was sup­posed to work an af­ter­noon shift but did the morn­ing one in­stead to cover for a col­league. That shift co­in­cided with the col­lapse at Lily Mine in Louisville, out­side Bar­ber­ton, nine days ago, and Nkam­bule has been trapped in the bow­els of the earth with two col­leagues, Yvonne Mnisi and Solomon Nyarende. In ad­di­tion to the trio, 76 other mine work­ers were trapped, but were res­cued be­cause they were al­ready in the shaft when the ground col­lapsed.

Nkam­bule (24) was work­ing in a con­tainer lamp room perched next to the tun­nel of the gold mine. It plunged about 60 me­tres, down five lev­els, and the mine’s res­cue teams have been work­ing around the clock to re­cover the con­tainer.

Nkam­bule’s hus­band, Christo­pher Maz­ibuko (38), also a mine worker at the pro­cess­ing plant in an­other lo­ca­tion, said he last saw her an hour be­fore the col­lapse.

“I sent her ‘please call me’ mes­sages at about 7am, but she didn’t re­spond. Then she called me back an hour later and said she was still busy giv­ing mine work­ers their lamps as they were go­ing un­der­ground and would call me back,” Maz­ibuko said.

“At 9am, I heard the mine had col­lapsed and rushed there. She was not sup­posed to work that morn­ing, but a col­league asked her to cover for her as she was de­layed some­where.”

The cou­ple have four chil­dren: three sons aged 13, nine and seven, and an eight-month-old daugh­ter.

The nine-year-old, Maz­ibuko said, pointed at a mustard belt he was wear­ing and warned: “You’re wear­ing mummy’s belt and she’s go­ing to get you.

“I sleep with the kids and they’re look­ing at me, hop­ing I’ll come with their mother one day.”

Maz­ibuko paid eight cat­tle to Nkam­bule’s fam­ily in lobola last year and they were build­ing a house to­gether.

Nkam­bule’s brother Mangaliso (32), a wiry man, said he wished he was the one who was dead. “If I could change fate, I would die in my sis­ter’s place. Why is it that a use­ful per­son dies and the use­less ones sur­vive?”

Be­side tak­ing care of her own chil­dren, Nkam­bule was feed­ing her sib­lings and pay­ing for two of them to at­tend univer­sity in Pre­to­ria and the Free State. Man­age­ment of an Mpumalanga gold mine that col­lapsed nine days ago has pledged R4.4 mil­lion to com­pen­sate the 76 sur­viv­ing mine work­ers and the fam­i­lies of the three still trapped un­der­ground.

Mike McCh­es­ney, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Van­tage Gold­fields, which owns Lily Mine, said each sur­viv­ing mine worker would re­ceive R50 000 while the three fam­i­lies would each be given R200 000. Min­eral Re­sources Min­is­ter Mosebenzi Zwane said yes­ter­day the depart­ment ne­go­ti­ated with the mine to con­sider the com­pen­sa­tion. “The com­pen­sa­tion will be paid by the mine … They have been self­less and co­op­er­a­tive,” Zwane said.

The mine de­cided to sus­pended its res­cue mis­sion to re­cover the three trapped mine work­ers yes­ter­day, fol­low­ing an­other rock col­lapse at the en­trance of the mine’s tun­nel in the early hours of Satur­day morn­ing. It is await­ing as­sis­tance from in­ter­na­tional and lo­cal pri­vate com­pa­nies to pro­vide their ex­per­tise. The three re­main trapped un­der­ground with­out food or wa­ter, and their chances of sur­vival are slim.

Zwane, along with Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza, an­nounced that govern­ment would be ask­ing pri­vate sec­tor com­pa­nies to help with the res­cue mis­sion by pro­vid­ing ad­vanced ex­per­tise, be­cause it had now be­come “too risky” for the mine’s team.

On the first and se­cond day of the col­lapse, McCh­es­ney said the mine had sent drones to iden­tify the con­tainer, but this had failed. They then sent elec­tro­mag­netic sur­vey equip­ment, which picked up re­ac­tions or tap­pings from in­side the con­tainer.

The dis­tance of the con­tainer was es­ti­mated to be 15 me­tres from the team, which has been re­mov­ing about 500 tons of rock and soil block­ing their way.

The depart­ment, Zwane said, would only in­ves­ti­gate the cause of the ac­ci­dent af­ter the three had been found.

“We have a cri­sis … Peo­ple are trapped un­der­ground. Is­sues of in­ves­ti­ga­tion and the out­come will be dealt with af­ter the peo­ple have been re­cov­ered,” he said.

PHOTO: FELIX DLANGAMANDLA

DAY OF DISAS­TER Emo­tional fam­ily mem­bers gather near the col­lapsed part of Lily Mine dur­ing res­cue op­er­a­tions

Pretty Nkam­bule

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