Government lied when it deemed irretrievable the container that entombed the bodies of three mine workers during a mining accident at Lily Mine in Mpumalanga in 2016.
These were the sentiments expressed by former City of Johannesburg mayor, and president of the newly formed party ActionSA, Herman Mashaba during a media briefing held in Sandton on Wednesday.
The briefing was held precisely to give an update from the legal team put together by Mashaba in January to assist the family members of the three miners, Yvonne Mnisi, Pretty Nkambule and Solomon Nyerende who, on February 5 2016, were buried in the mine when the entrance of the Lily mine’s shaft collapsed.
Mashaba criticised the 2018 report by the department of mineral resources and energy (DMRE) that contains recommendations to the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) for a decision for prosecution related to the mine accident that killed the three workers.
The department and the mine have been using the excuse that the container is irretrievable hence the cancellation of the initial rescue attempt, and there have been no further attempts to exhume the bodies.
“We have been lied to for so long... up to today I find it extremely strange that DMRE can cover up for a private company... We have communicated with numerous departments and entities to try to get the report into the mining disaster, but failed in all our attempts until our legal team applied for the Promotion of Access to Information Act, 2000, to be invoked to get the document.
“In the report, there is no mention of any irretrievability... The decision to deem the container irretrievable, while no doubt based on something, was not based on a professional assessment of the mine,” said Mashaba.
He reiterated that the DMRE report makes no reference to any investigation into the retrievability of the Lily Mine container, “yet it makes a finding that it is irretrievable”.
He said such a finding was a lie conceived by the department to mislead the families, the media and the people of South Africa.
Mashaba went on to question why government would continue to “mislead” the public and the families of the deceased miners, and promised the family members of the three miners that his legal team was now in the process of “putting together a legal strategy” that they would use when they took the matter to court.
He said the court case would most likely happen at the beginning of next year.
“To the government, if you are counting on my breaking my promise to the people of Lily Mine or losing interest in this matter, you are mistaken, because I will not stop until they get justice,” said Mashaba.
Harry Mazibuko, a representative of the former Lily Mine miners and their families lamented the inaction of government, saying they had failed the deceased miners.
“South Africa currently has no government, we have government infrastructure and departments occupied by individuals who are unwilling to serve the country’s citizenry.”
He thanked Mashaba, saying that before his party’s intervention they had been neglected and even assaulted by the police for occupying the premises of the mine.
“It’s now been 513 days since we started camping outside the mine [after three years of inaction]. Instead of getting assistance, our government, through law enforcement officials, assaulted us and called us unlawful invaders.
“We have more questions than answers from our government and we had even told government that they were failing to assist us as we were willing to retrieve the bodies ourselves. It’s been almost five years and they still block our attempts,” said Mazibuko.
A very emotional Sifiso Nkambule, Pretty Nkambule’s brother, said that, to this day, his family was in great pain.
“Every time anyone speaks of Lily Mine we feel pain. It’s been more than five years and we have still been unable to bury our sister.
“There are small kids and they keep asking where their parents are,” said Nkambule.