/ 14 September 2016

Zama Zamas retrieve last two bodies from Langlaagte mine

A zama zama sits at the entrance of the mine in Langlaagta.
A zama zama sits at the entrance of the mine in Langlaagta.

Twenty-two volunteer rescue workers had to endure a long night as they miraculously retrieved the bodies of the last two miners that were still trapped underground at the Langlaagte mine.

Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Community in South Africa Ngqabutho Mabhena, who was on the scene and spoke on behalf of the surrounding community, said it was no easy task retrieving the bodies.

Volunteer rescue workers had been searching for the bodies for several days.

Mabhena said the team of volunteers could only find a hole with a 30cm opening and believed they had reached a dead-end.

“They [rescue workers] couldn’t access that hole, because of all the heavy equipment that they were carrying,” Mabhena said.

The team had to breach the hole without most of their equipment.

Ancestral rituals
“The team don’t have any special equipment on them, they only have headlights and the sticks they find underground.”

The rescuers found the bodies of the last two trapped miners late on Tuesday. The two men are Sibangani Tsikwa, 24, and Njabulo Sibanda, 31.

Mabhena said one of the bodies was brought closer to the entrance before the rescue team, comprising 22 members, re-entered the mine to recover the second body.

The relatives sang songs and danced as they waited by the entrance of the shaft for the final body to be retrieved. They sobbed uncontrollably when the two bodies were laid next to each other.

A group of highly-specialised rescue technicians and illegal miners formed an unlikely partnership as they spent Monday night searching for the men trapped underground.

Anxious families
Mabhena said previously that 15 volunteers went underground on Friday in search of one trapped miner. The second man who was trapped underground was one of the volunteers who had gone in search of him.

Only eight returned, leaving seven underground. On Saturday another three came out, while a fourth made his way out on Sunday.

On Monday, mine rescue services found two of the remaining volunteers – one was dead and the other, who was in a critical condition, was taken to the Helen Joseph Hospital.

Mabhena said at the time they needed to find a way to enter the hole, because the families would not rest until the bodies came out.

“These people have their … traditions and believe they will only be at ease once the bodies are out,” he said. – News24