We Have No Government Say Miners at Lily Mine, Mpumalanga

Today I responded to a call from the families and colleagues of the three miners who have been trapped in Lily Mine since a collapse occurred in January 2016. 

The stories that were shared by these South Africans are nothing short of heart-wrenching. 

In January 2016, the main entrance to the Lily Mine collapsed, trapping three miners in a container underground. In order to affect the rescue operation, a new shaft had to be opened to provide emergency personnel the access they require. Shortly afterwards, the company with the mining rights went into business rescue, and ever since then, the family, friends and colleagues of Pretty Nkambule, Solomon Nyarenda and Yvonne Mnisi have languished without the closure they need. 

These South Africans have been treated with the most profound lack of respect. Every sphere of government has failed to provide them clarity in terms of what is going on, or the support they need. As one of the miners said during our engagement, “we do not have a government in our country.” 

Instead of being offered support, they were issued with a court order instructing them to stay at least 1000m away from the mine, after they made the decision to camp nearby and try to retrieve the bodies of their loved ones and colleagues themselves. Armed SAPS members enforced this court order last year, despite the fact that illegal miners continue to gain entry to the mine daily without law enforcement paying any attention. 

Tragically, one of the trapped miners left behind two infant children when the collapse occurred. Those children are now 5 and 8 years old respectively, and are having to come to terms with this most difficult loss of their mother. 

It is apparent to me, that government officials in our country are connected to this disaster. When you consider how the legal processes have been conducted, it seems to be entirely with the interests of the mining company in mind. The community have been refused the opportunity to lay criminal charges against the mining company until last year because no case has ever been opened. I would bet anything that an analysis of the shareholding of this mining company would reveal connections to senior politicians in our country. 

After having heard the plight of the people of Lily Mine, I have committed the full support of my family to provide the very best legal representation to them. We are going to ensure that their voices are heard in our courts of law, and we are going to ensure that they experience the justice they have been so fundamentally denied up until this point. In the modern day and age of mining technology, it is unfathomable that it can take four years to provide closure to these South Africans. 

I am supremely proud of these South Africans. They have experienced the worst forms of tragedy, and the worst forms of our political system. They contacted The People’s Dialogue when they had nowhere else to turn to. They have endured so many broken promises and failures, and yet they have never given up. They have been intimidated and petrol bombed and yet they never gave up. This is why we cannot turn our backs on them now. 

Unlike the politicians who have come and made promises and not delivered, my commitment will be realised for these people.

Issued by:

Herman Mashaba
The People’s Dialogue