Zimbabwean illegal miners die in SA
Tinashe Mahefu, a self-proclaimed illegal miner told NewsDay yesterday that his young brother, James, was among the deceased. Mahefu said the Zimbabwean miners suffocated after inhaling smoke from a tunnel at one of the mineshafts in the area.
“I was alerted on Wednesday morning that some people had died from inhaling toxic smoke from a fire started in the tunnel. I immediately knew that my brother was down there and together with my friends we went to the mine to look for them,” Mahefu.
“To avoid suffocating from the smoke we stuffed our noses with wet cloths. After a brief search, we discovered three bodies, including that of my brother. Later, I am told, one more body was found at the deeper end of the tunnel.”
“With the help of others, we took out the body of my brother out of the tunnel, and that is when police arrived and took it to the mortuary”
South African Police Service spokesperson Captain Captain Tsekiso Mofokeng said he was aware of one body recovered from the mine dumps.
“As a spokesperson I am only aware of one body, but the pathology department can help you on further information regarding other bodies,” Mofokeng said.
When NewsDay visited the mortuary in Springs, the attendants confirmed there were three bodies brought from the mine dumps.
Mahefu said he was still liaising with the Zimbabwean Embassy in South Africa to facilitate the repatriation of his brother’s body for burial back home.
“He was an illegal immigrant so the coroner says they will not release him and the others until there is documentation provided by the embassy. For now, we can only wait.”
A 2013 BBC report states that thousands of men, mostly foreigners from Zimbabwe, Mozambique and other African countries, risk their lives and go underground to sift through the remnants of South Africa’s abandoned mines around Johannesburg.
The illegal miners, called “zama zamas”, can kill for the smallest grains of gold.