A Despairing Demand From The Desperate

Published 7 years ago
A Despairing Demand From The Desperate

The road to the mining misery, in Louieville, Mpumalanga, is a picture of poverty; roads are crumbling and children roam the streets barefoot.

It has been five months since the fatal accident at the Vantage Goldfields, Lily Mine, near Barberton, Mpumalanga, and three people are buried in the rubble.

Yvonne Mnisi, Pretty Nkambule and Solomon Nyarende were buried, 80 meters underground on February 5, in a steel container where a crown pillar collapsed at the open pit gold mine.


Everyday Nkambule’s husband, 39-year-old December Mazibuko, wakes up to what he calls another day in hell.

We meet Mazibuko at his house made of mud, in Louieville, 20 minutes away from Lily Mine. He is on his way to apply for a child support grant at the clinic for his 10-month-old baby. Mazibuko says he had his last meal two days ago. With an empty fridge and electricity on zero units, Mazibuko lives on handouts.

“It’s tough,” says Mazibuko.

“I haven’t eaten. I sometimes get help from my family and neighbors, if they don’t come, it gets hard. I don’t know what to do and where to go to. The shops don’t give us food anymore because they know we don’t get paid anymore,” says Mazibuko, who worked at Lily Mine for nine years.


About 600 workers have been left without jobs since the mine collapsed.

In March, Mineral Resources Minister, Mosebenzi Zwane, promised families of the trapped a R200,000 (around $13,800) compensation and workers who survived R50,000 (around $3,500) each. The workers claim they’ve seen nothing.

“We didn’t get any money. They’ve been promising to pay us the money, ‘til now we haven’t received it,” says Mazibuko.

“We are very hungry. From now until December, the situation is going to get worse. How are we going to send our children to school? Already most of them are no longer going to school. I just want the bosses to pay us, if they can’t, then they should tell us. This is unfair,” says a Lily Mine worker, who didn’t want to be named.


On the day of the tragedy, 115 people clocked in for work and nearly all were rescued. The three missing were working in a steel container, used as a lamp room, which crashed down a sinkhole.

Rob Devereux, a business rescue practitioner, says they needed to raise R200 million (around $13.8 million) to dig a declined shaft 500 meters away from the sinkhole.

“We are in the process of raising the money. We offered all workers voluntary severance packages. Once we receive the funding, we’ll settle the workers’ salaries and rehire them,” says Devereux.

He says it might take up to a year for the mine to reopen.


“It will take about eight months to develop the rescue operation and the mine will open three months after that.”

Joseph Montisetsi, Deputy President of the National Union of Mineworkers, says they are planning to march to the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) in Johannesburg.

“We are calling on the DMR, as the regulator, that it must be in the forefront to make sure that the three employees trapped underground are rescued,” says Montisetsi.

The three missing workers were all breadwinners.


Dead or alive, the families say they want to find closure.

“We just want the mine to get Solomon out from the ground so that we as the Nyarendes can bury him,” says Wanda Nyarende, a cousin.

Through it all, Mazibuko hopes that his wife is still alive. Like most at this mine he feels abandoned.