The mother of a teenager who fell into a pit of flaming coals at an abandoned mine in Mpumalanga is concerned that her son could become paralysed if he does not receive the appropriate medical attention.
Siboniso Hleza, a 15-year-old Grade 8 learner at Mehlwana High School in Phola, near Ogies, received third-degree burns after falling into the pit while hunting rabbits with his peers in an unrehabilitated mining area.
According to the boy’s mother, Qibela Hleza, the incident happened last October, resulting in Siboniso being hospitalised at the Life Cosmos Private Hospital in Emalahleni.
Even though the land owner has not been positively located, managers from the local mining business Serite Resources promised to pay for Siboniso’s medical expenses and transport.
However, they stopped doing so in April when Siboniso started attending physiotherapy.
“After he was hurt, Seriti stepped up to help the family with the financial burden of medical expenditures and to provide transportation to the hospital. Unfortunately, they have stopped, and I don’t have a job. I’m worried that my son will be unable to function normally if he doesn’t keep going to the physio,” she said.
The mother explained that the first physiotherapy session her son missed was scheduled for May 29.
“The guys from Seriti were only helping out, and while I am grateful for their goodwill, I cannot force them to keep assisting us because they were only doing it out of the goodness of their hearts as Good Samaritans,” Hleza said.
Since the incident, Hleza’s son has been absent from school, which has caused her further distress.
“He has been unable to attend school at any point since October last year and throughout this academic year. As a mom who wishes to see her child get better and go back to school, I am begging anyone who is in a position to help to do so. Without the physiotherapy sessions, my son is unable to stand for an extended period of time,” she said.
In an earlier interview with African Times, Siboniso said he accidentally fell into a hole as he and his friends attempted to catch a rabbit.
“We were hunting with my friends, and the ground beneath me shifted and created a sinkhole. I fell straight into the smouldering coals and got trapped. As I struggled to escape the opening, my hands and legs were severely burned,” he said.
The brave teenager had to figure out how to escape the hole while his friends ran away from the scene in search of assistance.
After he eventually freed himself from the hole alone, he staggered toward the adjacent road, where a passing motorist picked him up and drove him to the hospital.
The coordinator of the Phola branch of Mining Affected Communities United in Action (MACUA), Bongani Nkosi, stated that the organisation’s attorneys were working around the clock to discover who owned the land where the incident took place.
Nkosi confirmed that the inquiry into the incident was slowed down when Siboniso pointed out contradictory sites for the incident scene.
“It is true that Siboniso identified multiple locations, but we believe the area he is pointing to now is the correct one because his peers also pointed in the same direction. The area the boys showed us is not rehabilitated and lacks warning signs. We are consulting with our legal team to determine our next steps,” said Nkosi.
Seriti spokesperson, Linda Khuluse, said the incident occurred less than one kilometre from the company’s operations, which means that Seriti cannot be held liable for the incident.
According to a recent report by Auditor General Tsakani Maluleke, there are 6,100 abandoned mines and 1,170 mine openings throughout the country.
Maluleke pleaded with the government to hasten the process of rehabilitating abandoned mines in her report, pointing out that these mines pose substantial hazards to the health, safety, and environment of the people who are located nearby.