Johannesburg - Families of the three Lily Mine tragedy victims say they will only get closure if the bodies of their loved ones are brought out of the mine.
Today marks exactly 1 000 days since Pretty Nkambule, Solomon Nyirenda and Yvonne Mnisi were trapped underground at Lily Mine in Barberton, Mpumalanga.
Families, civil society, politicians and ordinary community members commemorated 1 000 days since the three were trapped in a container which was swallowed by the ground almost six years ago.
Members of the families and community members have been camping outside the mine while they called on mine owners to make plans to retrieve the three bodies.
Spokesperson for the families, Harry Mazibuko said their first priority was that their loved ones’ bodies must be brought home.
“All we need is intervention from the government, especially the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR). Unfortunately it is them who must tell South Africa what is it that is holding the progress, what is it that is denying us justice and closure. I believe that is what we lack because the capability, the potential and finances are there and this is the company that showed us the proof of funding, including the chief of the area, and the plan to retrieve the container, but still it is not done. The question we have almost every day and night is ’do we have a government?’, because this is not Batho Pele. We call upon the government to intervene,” Mazibuko said.
When asked how the families were holding up, Mazibuko said the families have no choice. He said this is very embarrassing, painful and disappointing.
“Mnisi's mother has to leave her house and come and camp here because even at home she cannot stay because there is a question she has to answer ’where are they, are they really indeed trapped under this mine?’ All we need is closure, one cannot balance home activities and camping at the mine. We have a bad history of being at the mine premises. We have been attacked, that is up to the law enforcement agencies to prove, because I cannot confirm, but someone bought gangsters to attack the grieving families. There is no comfort here, there is no hygiene and no running water. We have chosen to be here because no one will voice out how frustrated we are,” he said.
Mazibuko said they invited everyone including politicians, mine owners, Minerals and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe, because they needed help and believe that this is a national issue.
ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba, who has shown interest in assisting the families, was one of the people present.
Mashaba said there's one or two companies which offered to re-open, re-employ a thousand or so people, to also retrieve the container.
“I am here today like I do all the time to ensure that whoever is under the impression that we will forget the tragedy, it is not going to be forgotten. This tragedy will go beyond all of us. The container is going to be retrieved, whether this government likes it or not,” Mashaba said.
Mashaba further said “This is going to be a reminder for all South Africans that when we have an evil government this is something that can really happen”.
Mashaba said ActionSA was giving families legal assistance. He said through this intervention they uncovered what he called “lies” that the container cannot be retrieved.
“Our legal cost to date is R1.3 million and growing everyday. It is not only a direct legal cost, we've got to feed the family all the time. I don’t know how many times I have been here to really try to get South Africans to wake up to this evil. From time to time I hear people say ’black lives matter’. Now I am asking if the three victims are not black enough, because people are just carrying on believing the lies of the government,” Mashaba said.