Police on Wednesday said at least three illegal miners trapped in a disused gold mine in Langlaagte, west of Johannesburg, have died.
On Tuesday night, relatives and friends of the trapped illegal miners went underground and retrieved two bodies after Mining Rescue Services and police had called off the search.
On Monday, Mining and Rescue Services personnel brought the body of an illegal miner to the surface. They also rescued another miner, who was in a critical condition. He was taken to Helen Joseph Hospital.
It has since been established that the men, who had entered Johannesburg’s oldest gold mine at George Harrison Park, which is now disused, were all Zimbabwean nationals.
Captain Kay Makhubele said police arrested four illegal miners when they emerged from the mine on Sunday, and they nabbed another three on Monday.
“All seven illegal miners will face charges of illegal mining at the Johannesburg Magistrates’ Court soon. The corpses of the three dead illegal miners were taken to a government mortuary in Hillbrow,” Makhubele said.
Mineral and Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane on Monday pleaded with the families of illegal miners to not send “untrained” people underground in a bid to rescue those trapped.
But the chairperson of the Zimbabwean Community in South Africa Ngqabutho Mabhena criticised the South African government for calling off the rescue operation, saying it was arrogant.
“The South African government, through the ministry of mineral resources, took a decision to abandon this (rescue mission), claiming that there was no one inside. But we have proven that indeed people are here, we have brought two bodies,” Mabhena said after two bodies were brought to the surface by volunteers on Tuesday.
“This, in our view, is arrogance at its best. Because the minister when he came here yesterday, he came in like a pop star. He simply just addressed the families without engaging them. He had not interest in talking with the people who work in this mine.”
Mineral resources department spokesperson Martin Madlala was not immediately available for comment.
Mabhena also took a swipe at officials from the Zimbabwean Consulate, who he said had promised them assistance but disappeared and never returned.
“We are disappointed by our own Zimbabwean government. When we arrived here yesterday, we had officials from the Zimbabwean Consulate. They had said to us they will come back in the afternoon. But up to this hour, they have never come or supported their own nationals,” Mabhena said.
Mabhena said the bodies would be taken to Zimbabwe for burial.
– African News Agency (ANA)