Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
The Zimbabwean Consulate in South Africa has initiated a verification process to establish if there are Zimbabweans among the 29 illegal miners who died in a mining accident in Free State province last week, an official has said.
It is reported that the victims died due suffocation following an explosion in a disused mine shaft.
Indications are that a fire broke out at Harmond Gold’s Eland Mine in Welkom City, when the gang was using explosives to blast the mine shaft.
Zimbabwe’s Consul-General to South Africa, Mr Batiraishe Mukonoweshuro, said they sent a team to work with the investigating officers in identifying the victims.
Said Mr Mukonoweshuro: “We understand that most of the victims were burnt beyond recognition, while others have missing limbs. We are in touch with the police in Free State and we hope the identification process will be completed at the earliest possible time.
“It is difficult to tell the nationalities of the victims at the moment though indications are that the place is frequented by Mozambicans, Zimbabweans and Basotho.”
Mr Mukonoweshuro said the South African police arrested 11 people whom they rescued, in connection with illegal mining activities.
He said rescuers were still trying to retrieve 11 bodies trapped under the mine shaft.
“It is sad that we continue to lose lives due to such illegal activities,” said Mr Mukonoweshuro. “We would like to urge our people to desist from such activities which put their lives in danger.
“As the consulate, we are seized with the perennial loss of lives of people involved in illegal mining.”
Free State security cluster commander Major-General Lerato Molale told the media in South Africa that the victims were aged between 30 and 35 years.
He said some of the bodies were retrieved in an advanced state of decomposition.
Pan African Communist party spokesperson Mr Kenneth Mokgatlhe said: “We are disturbed by the mass deaths of the miners.
“We are appealing to governments to co-opt every miner who are not in any registered companies to be offered formal training and employment.”
Over 40 Zimbabweans have been killed in mine accidents in the neighbouring country in the last three years.
In 2015, a total of 13 Zimbabweans died in the Benoni area in a mining incident, while in 2014 another 21 were killed in a disused mine around the Roadport area near Benoni.