WATCH: 'Why can they bring up illegal miners' bodies but not my wife's' - Heartbroken husband one year after Lily Mine tragedy

03 February 2017 - 14:42
By Ernest Mabuza
Shadrack Given Mdluli has still not given up hope that his wife, Yvonne Mnisi's remains will be retrieved from Lily Mine.
Image: YouTube/TimesLIVE Shadrack Given Mdluli has still not given up hope that his wife, Yvonne Mnisi's remains will be retrieved from Lily Mine.

Shadrack Given Mdluli sits‚ desolate‚ inside his modest two bedroom home‚ holding a picture of his wife and their young son‚ Junior‚ aged seven.

Mdluli says he built his house in Louieville‚ near Barberton in Mpumalanga‚ with the help of his late wife Yvonne Mnisi. She is one of three people killed when they were trapped underground at Vantage Goldfields’ Lily Gold Mine near Barberton on February 5 last year‚ when a central pillar in a shaft at the mine collapsed.

The resulting sinkhole took with it Solomon Nyerenda‚ Mnisi and Pretty Nkambule‚ who were inside a container which was used as a lamp-room. They are still trapped underground a year after the cave-in.

Mdluli was also employed by Lily Gold Mine‚ and most of the about 700 workers remained without jobs after the fall. The mine shut down and is in business rescue proceedings.

  • Anger over inaction a year after Lily Mine disasterCosatu has reiterated its call for Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane to resign for his handling of the Lily Mine disaster and for failing to bring about urgent changes to the mining sector. 

Mdluli has not given up hope that his wife’s remains will be retrieved from the container‚ which is buried about a kilometre below.

“For now‚ we have heard nothing. We have heard that the mine is looking for money to resume its operations‚ but we have heard nothing since‚” Mdluli said.

He questioned why the bodies of illegal miners in Johannesburg were retrieved from an unused mine in September‚ but not those of the legal miners at Lily Mine.

“I wish that government should assist us to find the people. We think the government is hiding from us‚ or whether it is the employer. What worries us is if you remember‚ at Langlaagte Mine‚ where illegal miners were trapped‚ there was money raised to rescue them.”

Mdluli said those illegal miners were rescued‚ while the Lily Mine miners – who paid taxes – were not rescued.

  • Salaries and food parcels for families of lost Lily mineworkersWhile government and the Lily Mine are yet to deliver on a promise to pay R200‚000 in compensation to the families of three mine workers who were killed in a sinkhole tragedy a year ago‚ the mine continues to take care of their families. 

He says he has been surviving on donations from the Gift of the Givers and a voucher from the South African Social Security Agency. Mdluli also worked for a few weeks in November for Vantage's Barbrook mine in November before it was closed in December.

A remembrance service which was meant to be held on the first anniversary of the accident has since been put on hold.

Business rescue practitioner‚ Rob Devereux‚ said the company had arranged the service for February 5‚ which was to have been an apolitical and a religious ceremony.

“We invited dignitaries from government and other areas. What has happened is that in the course of last week‚ we received indications from the police that unrest has been planned to disrupt the service‚” Devereux said.

In a meeting held on Thursday which was attended by the police‚ the unions and the affected families‚ it was agreed that it would be irresponsible to continue with the ceremony in light of a threat of violence‚ he said.

“We decided to postpone the ceremony to such time as we believe it will be safe‚” Devereux said.

  • Lily Mine remembrance service for Sunday postponedThe remembrance service to commemorate the first anniversary of the accident at Lily Mine near Barberton planned for Sunday has been postponed‚ business rescue practitioner Rob Devereux said. 

In a radio interview on Friday‚ Devereux acknowledged that the government and the Lily Mine are yet to deliver on a promise to pay R200‚000 in compensation to the families of three mine workers who were killed. But‚ he said‚ the mine continues to take care of their families and the money would be paid once a new investor had been found.

“What the company has done is we have continued to pay the salaries of Yvonne‚ Pretty and Solomon to the families on a monthly basis‚” Devereux told PowerFM. “They are also receiving grants from government. They have accommodation and there are food parcels delivered to them on a regular basis.”

Negotiations to reopen the mine are ongoing.

Devereux said the latest delays were caused by funding and unrest in the area.

  • Barberton mineworkers in despairBiting hunger, despondency and mounting debt stalk the mining community of Louisville near Barberton, Mpumalanga. 

Some of the funds meant for the Lily Mine rescue operation have since gone towards saving the Barbrook Mine‚ which is a sister mine of the Lily operation.

“Barbrook Mine was a developing mine which also part of the Vantage Group and we seconded a lot of Lily people to the Barbrook work mine so we kept on employing people and there were various projects and initiatives to employ more people‚” said Devereux.

“Now [Barbrook Mine] has gone into business rescue because of disruptions and lack of production. So the financial model has changed to include funding for the Barbrook Mine‚” he said.

Several options are being explored to re-open the mine.

Meanwhile‚ Devereux has committed to paying the families their R200‚000 as soon as possible.

“Yes‚ once I have received money to open the mine and do various things‚ the first people on my list to pay are the families‚ the R200‚000 and I have made that very clear. It is clear to the union. It is clear to the DMR (Department of Mineral Resources). It is clear to the families‚” he said.

Devereux clarified that Lily Mine was not receiving any financial support from the DMR.

“The DMR are offering us support in terms of giving support to the family‚ supporting us in discussions with the police and Remembrance Day. There is no financial support from the DMR‚” he said.