Death of 104 miners in Orkney a tragedy not to be forgotten

Nthabisang Moreosele

Nthabisang Moreosele

The National Union of Mineworkers suffered a blow when 104 of its members perished underground in May 1995.

The accident occurred at a gold mine in Orkney when a locomotive and an attached wagon fell on a crowded lift cage filled with miners.

The lift cage fell 500 metres when its hawser snapped. The mangled cage, locomotive and wagon were tangled with other steel structures in the mine. This made the rescue effort futile.

South Africa reacted with shock to the disaster.

Then president, Nelson Mandela donated R10000 to a trust fund to care for the miners' families. He set up a commission of inquiry into the accident.

The driver of the locomotive testified that he had frequently asked his supervisor for parts for the locomotive which was faulty. The supervisor denied receiving any reports.

It emerged during the inquiry that black and white miners used segregated lifts.

The commission eventually found the driver and four other senior underground staffers guilty of culpable homicide.

It also found the mine owners liable in turn.