Democratic Alliance Gauteng leader, Solly Msimanga on Wednesday said he wrote to the Mozambican High Commissioner in South Africa, requesting help for the repatriation of Mozambican nationals who died in the gas leak tragedy.
At least 17 people were killed at Angelo informal settlement in Boksburg last week when illegal miners, commonly referred to as zama-zamas, allegedly got their hands on a nitrate oxide gas tank which they intended to use in their mining activities.
A leak of the poisonous gas was what allegedly killed the community members, while many were hospitalised.
Speaking to broadcaster Newzroom Afrika, Msimanga said some of the families who lost loved ones are from neighbouring Mozambique and Zimbabwe “and they have been left to their own devices” as they are struggling to raise money to repatriate the deceased.
Transporting a body to the neighbouring countries can cost up to R20,000 and some of the families at Angelo informal settlement have lost numerous relatives.
“Yes, there were victims including young kids as young as under one-year-old and some elderly people that passed away there, and they were left to their own devices. These are families that don’t even know where their next meal is going to come from,” said Msimanga.
“The undertakers are telling them that to get the bodies to Mozambique or Zimbabwe will cost anything between R7,500 to R15,000 per person,” he said.
“There is an old lady who has lost her son, her daughter-in-law and two grandchildren. You multiply the four (bodies) by R15,000 and you’re looking easily at R60,000 just to get the bodies over to Xai Xai (in Mozambique). This is not something they will be able to do,” said Msimanga.
“This is why I have decided to write to the High Commissioner of Mozambique and find out if they will be able to step in and assist in carrying the bodies to their home countries, and give the families the necessary burial.”
Msimanga said he has also written to Zimbabwe’s ambassador to South Africa.
Last week, Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi said he was haunted by scenes of dead bodies and the devastation he witnessed at the Angelo informal settlement following the death of the 17 who inhaled the poisonous gas.
Lesufi returned to the scene on Thursday morning, after rushing to the area on Wednesday night following the news of the tragedy.
Lesufi said the current law enforcement strategies were archaic.
“We are under siege. We are using outdated law enforcement mechanisms in a new era that needs new forms of law enforcement. People are saying bring the army,” Lesufi said, addressing local and international media gathered at the Angelo informal settlement.
“The process of bringing the army in this country is prolonged - the president must announce, must go to Cabinet, opposition parties must comment, the budget must be approved, and when they come they must escort police,” he said.
“We just have to overhaul our law enforcement response. This thing of illegal mining is out of control. I share your frustration, actually I am frustrated. We just need a specialised way of training our law enforcement. They do try.”
Lesufi said it was disturbing how illegal mining has festered in a community occupied by residents.