Zimbabwean who died at disused SA mine identified

The abandoned shaft in Benoni where Blessing Chaitwa was found

By Nomalanga Moyo
SW Radio Africa
20 February 2014

One of the two people whose bodies were retrieved from a disused gold mine in Johannesburg, South Africa, has been identified as Zimbabwean Blessing Chaitwa.

The two were part of more than 20 illegal gold miners who spent several days trapped in the abandoned mine.

The majority of the miners are said to be Zimbabweans who are in SA illegally as they try to escape the economic hardships back home. Others have been identified as Mozambique, Lesotho and Malawi nationals.

Reports from SA say the illegal miners were deliberately trapped by a rival group who blocked their escape with boulders. When people heard shouting from underground, police were called but started arresting the illegal miners as they emerged from the shaft.

At least 10 people are still down the mine shaft, afraid of arrest if they come out. It was reported that police had blocked food and water being sent down to them.

Speaking from Johannesburg, SW Radio Africa correspondent Ezra Tshisa Sibanda said relatives had identified Blessing Chaitwa as one of the two people who died after being struck by a falling boulder.

“This is the same mine where 82 people died in an inferno in 2009 and there are notices warning people not to go down these mine shafts, located in Benoni, in Johannesburg,” Sibanda said.

However, without proper documentation, many Zimbabweans have been forced to live dangerously, including going into these forbidden mines.

“While Blessing has been lucky to be named, the identity of the other victim has not yet been established.

“It is a double tragedy that these people are dying miserable deaths, and may also never be properly identified or given decent burials by their loved ones, because they exist in the shadows,” Sibanda added.

Sibanda said the 25 men who were rescued were whisked away by the police to be charged for mining illegally.

It is estimated that about 4 million Zimbabweans have been driven to foreign lands as a result of political persecution and the economic hardships brought on by the Mugabe regime. The majority of these are in neighbouring South Africa, where they face discrimination and regular xenophobic attacks.

About a week ago, two Zimbabweans were killed during such an attack in Thohoyandou in the Limpopo province.

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