Efforts to rescue the trapped miners are at a standstill and their relatives feel that more than physical means are necessary to get them out.
The families of the three Lily Mine workers still trapped underground have called on the Lomshiyo Traditional Council, unions and the mine management to get a traditional healer to conduct a ritual at the mine.
“Ukuphahla [a ritual] is done at all mines and we have never conducted it here. There have been odd things happening here. We believe something should be done,” said Shadrack Mdluli, the husband of Yvonne Mnisi.
She, Pretty Nkambule and Solomon Nyerende have been stuck in a metal container for 13 days, but Mdluli believes they will come out alive.
“We do need this ritual to be conducted. Every attempt to rescue the container has failed no matter how close they have got to it. The soil collapses and it has become even more difficult and dangerous. The mine needs to get my wife out of there and we must try everything, tradition included. This is something more than that soil that keeps collapsing,” he said.
The mine has suspended the rescue mission because geologists warned two days ago that it was too dangerous to send the rescue teams back underground.
One of the collapses saw a large part of the hill above the mine fall into the hole where the container has been trapped, making the rescue mission even more dangerous.
As the mine managers search for ways to reach the three, their families are looking at other things.
Reaching out to the earth’s spirit
The spokesperson for the traditional council, Sizwe Mabaso, said Tikhontele Solomon Dlamini, its chief, had spoken to the Lily Mine management on Saturday about conducting a ritual at the mine.
“The families requested a delegation from the workers and the unions to speak to the prince [Dlamini] for them to intervene and ensure that this ritual is done. Right now the families are simply waiting for the mine to proceed with the ritual,” Mabaso said.
He added, although he had never worked in a mine, his father had and the ritual was done.
“Every mine has to be introduced to the earth’s spirits and this has never happened on this mine.”
Mdluli said he hoped that the mine would ensure it was done as soon as possible.
“The mine said that they are on board with this and they have told us that they will go to Barberton to find the woman who conducts these rituals for other mines.
“We need this done so we can release that container. I need to see my wife again,” he said.
The leader of the Association of Mineworkers and Commercial Union, Joseph Mathunjwa, said that their priority was the safety of those in the container.
“We are not going to speculate on anything right now. It is very dangerous near the pit and I understand why the rescue mission has been halted. I won’t speak of anything else for now. We need to rescue the container,” he said.