Alfred Moselakgomo and Sapa
The relatives of the illegal miners who were buried alive in a mine in Mpumalanga were relieved yesterday to learn that their loved ones can now be buried.
Brave family members and friends defied warnings and dared the depths of the dangerous abandoned mine to dig out the bodies of their relatives, who were buried alive in a rockfall.
The families, without any help from the authorities, found the bodies of the four men, who were killed while illegally mining gold near Barberton. Another body will be removed later.
The search for the bodies began on Wednesday after a rescue team from Secunda called off the search because it was too dangerous.
The friends and family members used spades and picks to dig a hole about 120m deep to reach their dead relatives.
Eric Sithole, whose uncle, Linda Fakude, is among the victims, said that though his uncle was dead he was happy that he could bury him with dignity.
The bodies of Mandla Mongase, 43, Emmanuel Madolo, 45, Melanie Abraham, 48, Linda Fakude, 21, and Nkosinathi Fakude, 21, were found in the 120m-deep shaft.
The five were part of a group of seven men who went into the mine to search for gold on January 3.
Two men managed to escape from the rockfall two days later and raised the alarm.
Police spokesman Superintendent Benjamin Bhembe confirmed that the bodies had been found in a search by the miners' families and friends.
"This morning they recovered the body of one miner and they continued their search. They later found the remaining four bodies," Bhembe said yesterday.
He said the families "did not get any help" from the mine rescue service.