SA slammed over handling of Langlaagte tragedy
Johannesburg – The chairperson of the Zimbabwean Community in South Africa, Ngqabutho Mabhena, criticised the South African government for calling off the rescue operation at Langlaagte, saying it was arrogant.
“The South African government, through the Ministry of Mineral Resources, took a decision to abandon this (rescue mission) claiming that there was no one inside. But we have proven that indeed people are here, we have brought two bodies,” Mabhena said after two bodies were brought to the surface by volunteers on Tuesday.
“This, in our view, is arrogance at its best. Because the minister when he came here, he came in like a pop star. He simply just addressed the families without engaging them. He had no interest in talking with the people who work in this mine.”
Spokesperson for the Department of Mineral Resources, Martin Madlala, was not immediately available for comment.
Mineral and Resources Minister, Mosebenzi Zwane, visited the mine on Monday, where he pleaded with the families of illegal miners not to send “untrained” people underground in a bid to rescue those trapped.
As many as 16 people were thought to have unlawfully entered Johannesburg’s oldest gold mine at George Harrison Park last week and had become trapped underground. Several other people were known to have gone into the disused mine to try to rescue those stuck underground.
On Monday Mining and Rescue Services personnel brought the body of an illegal miner to the surface. They also rescued another miner, who was in a critical condition. He was taken to Helen Joseph Hospital.
On Tuesday night, relatives and friends of the trapped illegal miners went underground and retrieved two bodies after Mining Rescue Services and police had called off the search.
It has been established that the men, who had entered the disused mine, were all Zimbabwean nationals.
Mabhena also took a swipe at officials from the Zimbabwean Consulate , who he said had promised them assistance but disappeared and never returned.
“We are disappointed by our own Zimbabwean government. When we arrived here yesterday, we had officials from the Zimbabwean Consulate. They had said to us they will come back in the afternoon. But up to this hour, they have never come or supported their own nationals,” Mabhena said.
Mabhena said the bodies would be taken to Zimbabwe for burial.
Captain Kay Makhubele said on Wednesday that police arrested four illegal miners when they emerged from the mine on Sunday, and they held another three on Monday.
“All seven illegal miners will face charges of illegal mining at the Johannesburg Magistrate Court soon. The corpses of the three dead illegal miners were taken to a government mortuary in Hillbrow,” Makhubele said.
African News Agency