Illegal miners shot

By Drum Digital
11 August 2010

HE LIGHTS a cigarette and takes a deep drag. His face is stern and he looks tired. Prince Norman hasn’t been getting much sleep lately – not since he witnessed the underground shooting at one of the most controversial mines in South Africa.

Prince (27) is sitting with his friends Mpho Kwena (29) and Norbert Mawine (27) on a street corner in Payneville informal settlement near Aurora’s Grootvlei mine on the East Rand.

The mine was back in the news recently when four illegal miners were shot dead while trying to extract gold deep in the belly of the Earth. Prince and his friends all saw what happened – they’ve spent several months working underground for a syndicate illegally mining on Aurora’s property. Prince has a story to tell – and what a tale it turns out to be.

“We will tell you what happened down there but we will not snitch on our friends and business partners,” he says in his thick Zimbabwean accent. “The important thing here is we need to find those thugs who came underground and opened fire on us – they must be arrested.”

He fidgets with his hands as he talks and appears distressed. He’s been chosen to inform the families of the dead men – Mathias Sithole, Kenneth Sithole, Clever Smango and Stokwane (surname unknown) – that their breadwinners won’t be coming home any more.

Their bullet-riddled bodies were removed from a makeshift shaft in a disused quarry on 12 August. What exactly happened down there hadn’t been clear – until we tracked Prince down and he recalled the details of that grim day.

Monday 9 August was business as usual for the illegal miners, or ngulumbayi as they’re called around here.

“It was around 10 am when two of our colleagues went up the shaft to the surface to buy food and rock-blasting equipment for us. They did not return and because we have a strict code of time-keeping underground we began to suspect something was wrong.”

Read the full article in DRUM of 26 August 2010

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