Sunday Manenji could not hold back tears as he told of his fears that the body of his son might never be recovered for the family to give him a decent burial.
BY NUNURAI JENA
Mickitayi was among the 12 illegal miners who were trapped underground after a shaft collapsed at Chinhoyi’s Eldorado gold mine last week.
“Yes, my son is underground, he was trapped with others, but the Mines ministry officials are behaving as if it’s business as usual,” lamented Manenji. The number of those presumed trapped varied depending on the source with the police putting the number at 12.
One of the survivors, Manasi Moyo, who said he escaped after realising that a big rock was about to fall, said they were 28 when they bribed the police guarding the mine entrance so they could go underground in search of gold.
Moyo said he escaped death by a whisker when he dashed back to the ladder they had used to get to level 11, which is 385 metres underground. A level is about 35 metres. “The experience will haunt me for the rest of my life,” he said.
“We had just landed at the level 11 shaft using a makeshift ladder when I realised that a big rock was about to fall, but unfortunately some of my colleagues were further ahead since we were behind.
“I ran back pulling Jefta back, but the rest were crushed to death. Out of a possible 28 people, only four survived,” claimed Moyo. Manenji said his missing son went to the mine with his brother-in-law who survived to tell the story to his in-laws.
Manenji claimed the Mines ministry officials on the ground had done nothing since Monday evening when the mine collapsed. “I have been here since Tuesday, but nothing is being done by the ministry,” he said.
“In fact, they are sending the artisanal miners underground and report back to them and most of the artisanal miners end up digging gold. It looks like a scheme to get gold at the expense of our dead sons.”
The Saidi family from Kadoma has been camping at Eldorado mine for three days after being told that their son went underground on the fateful day and had not been heard from since.
“My younger brother Henry came with his five friends from Kadoma [and] they hired a car to come here,” he said.
“He indicated before he left that they were going to go underground on Monday night, that’s why we are here.”
Zvimba North MP-elect Marian Chombo blasted the government’s rescue team for allegedly sleeping on duty after failing to retrieve the bodies.
“What is of concern is that the Mines ministry rescue team has done nothing for the last three days,” she said.
“In fact, it is the artisanal miners who are being sacrificed to go underground without protective clothes and have no mining expertise.”
Chombo’s sentiments were echoed by Chief Katizagombo, who said the government officials were only relying on information provided by artisanal miners. Chief Shayarushokwa said the mine owners should engage the traditional leaders in the area on how to appease spirit mediums following the deaths.
Chenjerai Daitai, a lawyer representing the mine owners, told a crisis meeting at Eldorado that the government was in charge of the rescue mission.
Daitai said the rescue team could not go further than level nine because most equipment was vandalised when the mine was put under judiciary management recently.
Moyo said they usually give police officers bribes of $20 each to go underground at night.
However, Mashonaland West police spokesperson Inspector Clemence Mabgweazazra refuted the allegations, saying they were no longer guarding the mine.
Mashonaland West provincial mines director Sibongubuhle Mpindiwa, who earlier promised to comment on allegations that the ministry was not doing anything to retrieve the bodies, did not pick subsequent calls.