Mashaba takes government and stakeholders to court in bid to retrieve bodies of three Lily mine workers

FILE IMAGE: Herman Mashaba speaks to former employees of Lily Mine and family members of the three trapped miners in Louisville, outside Barberton.
FILE IMAGE: Herman Mashaba speaks to former employees of Lily Mine and family members of the three trapped miners in Louisville, outside Barberton.
Image: Supplied

In a bid to force the government to act on retrieving the remains of three workers trapped in the earth at Lily Mine in Mpumalanga, former Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba has filed an application to force the government and other stakeholders to investigate the matter.

On the morning of February 5 2016, Solomon Nyerenda, Yvonne Mnisi and Pretty Nkambule were on duty in the lamp room at ground level at the mine in Barberton when the steel container facility they were in sunk into the ground.

The other 76 workers who were caught up in the sinkhole incident on the day, were rescued through a shaft window.

But about two weeks later, the rescue mission for the trio in the container was abandoned after further earth disturbances hit the open pit mine.

The decision was reached by agreement between mine management and the department of mineral resources. It was decided that the ground was dangerously unstable to continue the search.

Mashaba, who visited the mine early this year, promised to fund legal costs to compel the government and mine management to retrieve the bodies "whatever it costs".

Yesterday, Mashaba announced that he and his team from "People's Dialogue" have managed to file papers forcing the government and the mine management to release documents that led to the abandonment of the recovery mission.

"I am pleased to report that our legal team has lodged an application for the documents necessary to enjoin our government to retrieve the trapped miners at Lily Mine.

"The documents in question were used to substantiate a 2018 Health and Safety Report which found that the container could not be retrieved.

"Similarly, a report from the miner rescue services is also part of our application," he said.

Mashaba further said they were also considering to take the case to an open court to force the government to retrieve the trio.

"However, should the same pattern of obstructionism emerge, we have the legal team to take this matter to an open court of law to expose the comprehensive and coordinated efforts at all costs to prevent that container being retrieved," said Mashaba.

"The families [of the trapped workers] have been deprived proper burials of their loved ones. The families and former workers remain camped outside of the mine, while those responsible for the collapse [of the mine] live free and in comfort," he said.

Mashaba said besides wanting to retrieve the bodies of the miners, they were also looking to take the owners of the mine to court to account for the tragedy.

"There is a buyer that promised to buy and also start retrieving the bodies and also compensate the survivors of that tragedy and their families," he said.

The NPA early this year said it could not prosecute because there were no death certificates to prove that the miners had died.

Spokesperson of the workers and their families, Harry Mazibuko, told Sowetan they were pleased with what Mashaba was doing.

"All the people who came here lied to us, including government. We are happy that Mr Mashaba's promises are coming to reality," he said.

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