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Service for 22 miners who died in South Africa (Pictures)

The bodies of 22 Zimbabwean illegal miners who were gassed to death in a South African disused mine arrived in the country Friday morning and a service was held for them before being dispatched to their respective final places for burial. 

The bodies of 22 Zimbabwean illegal miners who were gassed to death in a South African disused mine arrived in the country
The bodies of 22 Zimbabwean illegal miners who were gassed to death in a South African disused mine arrived in the country

A funeral cortege of 10 hearses and other vehicles carrying mourners passed through the Beitbridge Border Post on its way to Bulawayo.

The crew suffocated at a mine in Roodepoort —suburb of Johannesburg, last week. The miners unwittingly exposed themselves to the deadly gas in a bid to evade arrest by the South African police force.

South African police were reportedly waiting for the miners to emerge from the shaft to arrest them, as they had no proper documentation to live in South Africa.

Service for 22 miners who died in South Africa
Zapu leader Dumiso Dabengwa during a service for 22 miners who died in South Africa

Determined to avoid detention and immediate deportation, the miners decided to buy time and sought refuge inside the mine. They were not trapped but decided to stay underground in the hope the police would go away. In the process they unknowingly exposed themselves to carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide is a gas you can’t see, taste or smell it and it can kill quickly with no warning. Herbert Ndlovu, who survived the incident, avoided going to the mine on that day.

“Our colleagues were missing for three days when we decided to look for their bodies. I am not aware of the gas that killed them but they looked swollen and their skin was peeling off as we carried them,” Ndlovu said.

The bodies of 22 Zimbabwean illegal miners who were gassed to death in a South African disused mine arrived in the country
The bodies of 22 Zimbabwean illegal miners who were gassed to death in a South African disused mine arrived in the country

He said at least 100 illegal miners used to enter the disused mine daily, going more than 30km in the shafts seeking gold.

Zimbabwe’s Consular-General Godfrey Magwenzi has urged Zimbabweans to use proper travel documents to avoid exposing themselves to dangers associated with illegal activities like border jumping.

“It was evident that most people at the funeral wake did not have proper travel documents and we urged them to visit our offices for assistance. We also highlighted the dangers associated with illegal gold mining at abandoned mine shafts,” Magwenzi said.

The bodies of 22 Zimbabwean illegal miners who were gassed to death in a South African disused mine arrived in the country
The bodies of 22 Zimbabwean illegal miners who were gassed to death in a South African disused mine arrived in the country

He discouraged Zimbabweans from using middlemen to assist them illegally cross borders.

“There are people known as omalayitsha who are paid between R2,000 and R4,000 so that people sneak into South Africa through illegal crossing points and this is exposing many people to danger,” he said.

Bulawayo East MP Tabitha Khumalo who was seconded by MDC-T President Morgan Tsvangirai to facilitate the burials, said they were taken aback by Zanu PF’s sudden interest in the death of the miners, yet the government had not done anything to assist families.

“They just want to get the glory of the Zimbabweans yet they did nothing from the onset,” Khumalo said.

Of the 22 Zimbabweans, 13 are from Nkayi, five from Gokwe South, two from Tsholotsho, one from Kwekwe and one woman from Kezi.

List of SA Mine Disaster victims

From Nkayi district under Chief Madliwa

Mpilo Siziba,

Kwanele Siziba,

Ndumiso Siziba,

Melusi Siziba,

Mthandazo Ncube,

Mehluli Ncube,

Danisa Ncube,

Carrington Siwela,

Brighton Moyo,

Khethani Mbiba,

Tshepo Sibanda,

Shepherd Mnkandla

Brighton Mlambo

From Gokwe under chief Makora

Dickson Gumbi,

Life Ndlovu,

Mjombi Mpofu,

Edward Ncube

Nqobani Mlambo

From Tsholotsho under chief Siphoso

Ndodana Mathe

Caanan Dube

One victim with surname Mathe from KweKwe under Chief Nduku.

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