ANC Secretary-General Fikile Mbalula has been accused of using the Lily Mine disaster in Mpumalanga to advance the political goals of the governing party.
The families of Solomon Nyirenda, Yvonne Mnisi, and Pretty Nkambule told African Times that Mbalula promised that the ANC would urgently organise the retrieval of the three miners’ shipping container, which has held them underground for the past seven years.
Nyirenda, Mnisi, and Nkambule were part of a group of 90 miners trapped at the mine in Louisville near Barberton on February 5, 2016.
Eighty-seven workers were rescued, but the three working in the lamproom remained stuck 80 metres below the surface.
“ANC Secretary General Fikile Mbalula lied to the families of the three miners when he told them at the beginning of May that the miners’ bodies would be retrieved within three months.
“More than three months have passed since he made the promise to the families at a Worker’s Day event where the mine is located in Louisville. Since then, no progress has been achieved, and instead, ongoing litigation has played a role in concluding rescue operations,” said Henry Mazibuko, spokesperson for the families.
Mazibuko, a former Lily Mine worker familiar with the tragedy, further accused Mbalula of defying the families’ wishes that the ANC not bus people to the Labour Day event in Louisville.
“The families also requested that no loudhailers be used but that a sombre approach be taken to pay respect to the lost miners. The ANC has consistently let down the families of the victims and former employees since the Lily Mine tragedy.
“Numerous ANC leaders, including former mineral resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane and former premier David Mabuza, have promised progress in retrieving the miners’ bodies, but to date, no rescue operations have yet been started,” he said.
Although the families have chosen not to align with any political party, ActionSA President Herman Mashaba has been praised for his genuine support of them.
“Mashaba has cared enough for the families of the victims to pay his respects and assist the family in legal action against the mine owner and the state. Mashaba has also written numerous letters to plead with the ANC government to take action and has helped draw attention to the ongoing tragedy in the media.
“The families of the three miners who died ask that the ANC government urgently fulfill the promises made to them and take tangible steps to help them retrieve the bodies of their loved ones so that they can give them a dignified burial,” Mazibuko said.
Mazibuko called on the government to take steps to help find the miners’ bodies so that their families could have a respectful and dignified funeral.
Days after the incident in 2016, experts said there wasn’t enough air underground, so the rescue efforts turned into a retrieval operation. Shortly after, Australian company Vantage Goldfields stopped the rescue operation because they were worried that the people they hired to do the job could get stuck themselves.
Last month, the Supreme Court of Appeal dismissed an application by Vantage Goldfields to challenge the Mbombela High Court ruling that independent creditor Arqomanzi acquire the mine, along with another known as Barbrook.
Argomanzi intends to resume operations at Lily Mine with an offer to give miners back their jobs and to help retrieve the container that trapped lamproom workers in a sinkhole.
Mbalula has not responded to the allegations despite phone calls and a WhatsApp media inquiry sent to him several days ago. His WhatsApp account has reflected that the media inquiry was read.