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Jagersfontein mudslide survivor happy with her new house

Masoeu lost her husband on the night of Jagersfontein tragedy

An emotional Rachel Masoeu has been living in the garage at her sister's house in Jagersfontein.
An emotional Rachel Masoeu has been living in the garage at her sister's house in Jagersfontein.
Image: Becker Semela

Rachel Masoeu who lost her husband Aaron after a wastewater dam collapsed, leaving a trail of destruction, wept as government officials showed her a house she would take ownership of soon.

Masoeu is among dozens of residents from Charlesville in Jagersfontein, Free State, whose properties were damaged by mudslide from the dam incident in September 2022.

Eight months since the incident, some of the residents have been living with relatives as their homes were swept away or destroyed when the tails mine dam owned by Jagersfontein Development collapsed.

Deputy president Paul Mashatile flanked by Free State premier Mxolisi Dukwana and other officials on Tuesday showed Masoueu and residents the houses they would be moved to as soon as the work on them was completed. 

An emotional Masoeu, 59, could not hold her tears when she was shown her house which still need some touch-ups before she can move in.

“I am delighted to have a house,” she said with joy in her voice.

“At least I will have peace of mind after losing everything, including my husband. I know he will not come back but his soul will rest in peace seeing that I have a house.”

A teary Masoeu added: “I never thought that this day will come. I am sure my trauma will be better because I have been having sleepless nights after the incident.”

She expressed her heartbreak about not attending her 79-year-old husband’s funeral as she was admitted in hospital  at the time

“I spent two weeks at the hospital and after I was discharged I started preparing for my husband’s funeral. 

“The next thing I woke up at the [hospital] again, and this time I was told that my man’s funeral had taken place.”

Recalling the fateful night of the mudslide, she said: “I heard a big sound like an aeroplane. When I looked outside I saw water coming from the direction of the mine and neighbours were shouting that we should flee.

“I went back into the house to wake my husband up. He was not feeling well and not fast [enough]. We found ourselves holding on to a fence and I remember him shouting, telling me, ‘please save yourself’.”

With tears rolling from her eyes, Masoeu recalls after finding herself trapped in the mud next to the road, she saw a bakkie driving past and waved at the occupants.

“I was helped by a farmer and his employee who took me out of the mud and I was feeling very cold and could not talk, they took me to the other side, the next thing I woke up at the hospital.”

Masoeu said for the past eight months she has been living in a garage at her sister's house. Her new house will have three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a dining room and kitchen.

Another survivor Rebecca Lebona, 36, said she still can’t believe she is alive.

“I am happy to be alive because the house was washed away by the mud. On the day of the incident, I just woke up and heard something hitting the house and the next thing I was swimming in the water and pulled out by someone.

“I was freezing and could not believe what was happening,” said Lebona. She is living with a relative.

Mashatile, who met with the residents, said government was committed to ensuring that all the victims are assisted and that the lack of water in the area will soon be dealt with as the dams are now full.

The mine’s stakeholder development spokesperson Billy Bilankulu said they have budgeted R45m to build and renovate houses.

He said there were 68 houses that needed to be built and 70 that needed to be renovated. 


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