Johannesburg - The eight miners were shot execution-style. Tumisang Molomo’s killer forced a gun into his mouth and pulled the trigger. The man died instantly.
Molomo lost three teeth, which fell to the ground during the ordeal.
The drama unfolded at the weekend at a disused mine in Benoni during a fight involving rival illegal miners in Ekurhuleni.
On Sunday, The Star spoke to a survivor, Thabang Makwayi, who gave a detailed account of the gunfight. He said the fight broke out on Friday while they were digging for gold.
“We were busy digging for gold when I suddenly heard multiple gunshots. The shooting started at about 11 in the morning on Friday.
“I ran away and hid at a place we call Madala side – (Fanagalo for an area that does not have gold anymore).
“I hid myself there until late at night. I only managed to leave the mineshaft after 11pm. I managed to get a taxi to Etwatwa, where I live.”
Makwayi returned to the mine on Sunday with the police and Molomo’s relatives.
The dead man’s body was brought to the surface and taken to a mortuary.
The police had to call in a specialised unit investigating illegal mining and the killings to retrieve his body trapped underground. It was taken out a few minutes before 5pm.
The police recovered Molomo’s teeth and placed them in a bag for DNA analysis and investigations.
Other illegal miners also joined in the search. During their search, police officers recovered another body near the mine shaft.
It had a bullet wound in the back and police suspect the man was shot while fleeing from attackers.
Gauteng SAPS spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Lungelo Dlamini said police had initially recovered the bodies of four illegal miners on Saturday.
A fifth was recovered about 100m away. He had multiple gunshot wounds.
Dlamini said the man had been running away from his attackers.
A source close to the investigation said the first four people were found with their hands tied behind their backs.
“All of them had gunshots to their heads. Their attackers had stripped them of their overalls. They also emptied their pockets. This was clearly a robbery.
“Usually, in cases like this, we sometimes find passports, cellphones, bags containing clothes and cash with the victims or any other form of identification.
“In this case, the police found nothing that could assist police with their investigations. Everything was gone,” the source said.
He said there had been 10 other execution-style killings in the past.
Molomo’s brother Seqobela had one question for his brother’s killer: “What was the motive for it?”