Legal action will force government to retrieve Lily Mine workers: Mashaba

Herman Mashaba says his party will force the government to retrieve the container buried 70m underground under 20,000 tons of earth.
Herman Mashaba says his party will force the government to retrieve the container buried 70m underground under 20,000 tons of earth.
Image: Sunday Times

Work will begin to implement a legal strategy to force the government to retrieve the container that buried three mineworkers at Lily Mine near Barberton four years ago.

Action SA president Herman Mashaba said this on Wednesday as he revealed that answers he received from a government department — that claims the shipping container was irretrievable — were not based on a professional assessment of the mine.

“What this means is that the decision to deem the container irretrievable, while no doubt based on something, was not based on a professional assessment of the mine,” Mashaba said at a media briefing in Johannesburg.

Mashaba got involved earlier this year in efforts to retrieve the bodies of Yvonne Mnisi, Pretty Nkambule and Solomon Nyerende.

They were in an above-ground container being used as a lamp room when the mine collapsed and they were buried 70m underground under 20,000 tonnes of earth.

In May, lawyers appointed by Mashaba’s party wrote to the department of mineral resources & energy requesting documentation on why the three mineworkers buried since February 2016 had not been retrieved.

Mashaba said the party had always believed the question of the retrievability of the container was the nub of the issue. He said the lawyers received the documents they had requested on August 20 and they did not show any basis for the conclusion that the container was irretrievable.

“What it means is that these former miners, their families, our parliament and the South African people have been subjected to one of the most elaborate lies in the history of our nation.”

Mashaba said the party’s legal team would now implement a strategy to force the government to retrieve the container. “I am assured that in the first half of next year we will be in court,” Mashaba said.

Wendel Bloem, the lawyer appointed by Action SA, said he was with the families in parliament this year and the department told the parliamentary portfolio committee that the container could not be retrieved. Bloem said the extent of that finding, with regards to irretrievability, was a one-paragraph, two-liner that basically said the container was irretrievable.

The only reference to irretrievability in the entire report was two site visits within a month after the incident.

“We have an inquiry that makes no scientific inquiry and investigation,” Bloem said.

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