Observer on Saturday - - News - By Bodwa Mbingo

Two Swazi il­le­gal min­ers were among four that were killed by a rockfall in Barberton, South Africa this week.

This il­licit min­ing is oth­er­wise known as zama zama in the neigh­bour­ing coun­try.

Musa Mn­guni, Jo­hane Ma­gag­ula, Mduduzi Kunene and Siza Mavela Sime­lane were killed by a land­fall in a de­funct area of the mine at around 10pm on Tues­day.

Mn­guni and Ma­gag­ula are South Africans while Kunene and Sime­lane are from Swazi­land.

Ac­cord­ing to the Low­evelder pub­li­ca­tion, it took about 18 hours to bring the bodies to the sur­face.

An­other hour or so was spent trans­port­ing the bodies to the main road where fam­ily mem­bers and friends could iden­tify their loved ones.

There were emo­tional mo­ments while the bodies were brought to the sur­face. Com­mu­nity mem­bers blamed some au­thor­i­ties for not as­sist­ing.

“Yes, we un­der­stand that it is il­le­gal, but when it comes to sav­ing lives the govern­ment must in­ter­vene,” one told the Lowvelder news­pa­per.

Ac­cord­ing to some of the il­le­gal min­ers who sur­vived, one of the vic­tims could have been saved had he re­ceived med­i­cal at­ten­tion in time.

Galaxy Gen­eral Man­ager, Dale Richards, said when they heard about the ac­ci­dent, they im­me­di­ately dis­patched mine en­gi­neers to in­ves­ti­gate. The ini­tial re­port was that up to 200 had been trapped.

Their en­gi­neers, how­ever, deemed the en­trance and ac­cess tun­nel un­safe to en­ter. The com­mu­nity mem­bers, how­ever, in­sisted, and went down in their num­bers.


Once the rockfall was con­firmed, the depart­ment of min­eral re­sources ac­ti­vated mine res­cue ser­vices to as­sist. It was about mid­night on Wed­nes­day, and too dan­ger­ous to ac­cess the area, Richards said.

“That part is up in a moun­tain, you can’t ac­cess it in the dark.”

They ar­rived at 5:30am on Thurs­day and in­ves­ti­gated the scene, as two more men had been re­ported miss­ing. By around 7am they had been found safe and sound by the com­mu­nity.

Galaxy Gold CEO, Dwaine Koch, con­firmed that the mine was cur­rently un­der care and main­te­nance.

The com­pany em­ploys reg­u­lar se­cu­rity as well as TSU Se­cu­rity, a spe­cialised unit.

Their pres­ence on site has greatly re­duced the num­ber of il­le­gal min­ers ac­cess­ing Galaxy shafts over the past year, Richards said.

“We still have a prob­lem. They do it out of poverty.”

One other zama zama has died as a re­sult of rock­faal in the past year, Richards said.

Yet, se­cu­rity can­not cover all ar­eas at all times and they break through the block­ages Galaxy in­stals at the en­trances to tun­nels it does not use.

“What makes il­le­gal gold min­ing so dan­ger­ous is that they chip away at the sup­port pil­lars, which con­sist of ore mat­ter,” Richards ex­plained.

Some of the il­le­gal min­ers told the news­pa­per that, while the ac­ci­dents were scary, they would not back off their il­le­gal min­ing ac­tiv­ity be­cause they have fam­i­lies to sup­port.

“The un­em­ploy­ment rate is too high. For some of us it is very dif­fi­cult to find em­ploy­ment due to our crim­i­nal records, which we got for be­ing in pos­ses­sion of un­law­ful gold. This pre­vents us from be­com­ing em­ployed in lo­cal mines,” one ex­plained. He would not give his name.

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