Mckeed Kotlolo and Alfred Moselakgomo
The last two of the four bodies of the illegal miners who were trapped in a mine in Mpumalanga at the weekend were recovered yesterday.
The bodies of Sifiso Mbombi, 27, and his brother S'thembiso, 22, of Barberton, were recovered yesterday morning by members of the Fairview Mine rescue team in Barberton.
The bodies of Mduduzi Mthethwa, 25, and Khehla Mkhize, 22, both of Sheba Siding outside Barberton, were recovered on Monday.
The mine's general manager, Casper Strydom, said yesterday that 11 illegal miners were digging for gold in the disused parts of the mine on Saturday when mine officials detected smoke coming from the shaft.
On investigating, the mine officials came across a "smoke drunk trespasser" who told them that 10 other people were trapped in the mine.
Rescue teams found three survivors on Sunday. The three survivors, with the "drunk trespasser', were handed over to the police.
The search continued on Monday and three more surviving illegal miners were rescued. They were also handed over to the police.
"One of them was admitted to the local hospital's intensive care unit in a critical condition," Strydom said.
He said the search had to be abandoned due to fumes and darkness inside the affected shaft until yesterday morning when the last bodies were recovered.
In all, seven of the 11 trapped illegal miners were rescued.
Strydom said illegal mining had been going on for years.
"Their actions put the lives of our employees in danger because they blow up the pillars which contain gold and they also set fires in the mine," Strydom said.
Meanwhile, the bereaved families of Twala and Mkhize told Sowetan yesterday that it had been the dead men's first visit to the mine.
Twala's sister, Joyce, said her brother, who was employed as a farm labourer, left home on Thursday and the family thought he was going to work.
"He always wanted to join the groups going to the mine but my mother would always stop him and as a result they would leave him behind," she said.
Hlengiwe Zungu, Mkhize's cousin, said most people in the area were unemployed.
Zungu blamed the mines for preferring to employ non-South Africans from the neighbouring countries.
This was, however, dismissed by Strydom, who said Fairview Mine employed 99 percent locals.
He said the only foreigners employed at the mine had the skills that the people in the area did not have.