Tomorrow morning 29 July 2021 at 09h00, Lily Mine arson accused and convicted murderer and serial criminal Kaizer Gwebu and his 5 accomplices will appear at the Low’s Creek Periodical Court in Barberton, Mpumalanga where the start of their arson trial will be determined.
Yesterday marked 820 days since the bereaved Lily Mine families set up a protest camp outside the mine demanding justice. What these families are asking for is simply to have the remains of their family members retrieved from the container that fell just over 60m underground on that fateful morning on 5 February 2016.
Presently, there is yet to be clearly communicated plan – with set time frames – for retrieving the container and completing business rescue proceedings for the mine so that the jobs of the former miners may be restored.
All this time the families of those who died at Lily Mine have been subjected to ridicule and attacks that have included intimidation and even arson at the hands of hired guns and known criminals.
Following mounting pressure on authorities for the arrest of those responsible for the arson attack on the Lily Mine family camp, Kaizer Gwebu, a known criminal, and his 5 accomplices, who are now out on bail, were arrested.
Gwebu was the chief architect of the arson attack against the settlement where the Lily Mine families have been staying. He has also been convicted of murder, armed robbery, and illegal possession of a gun and ammunition, for which he was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment. Gwebu’s attack on the Lily Mine families was a clear violation of his parole conditions which remain in force till 2033. The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is yet to provide reasons for their decision not to oppose bail for this dangerous criminal.
Ultimately, it would appear that at the centre of this tragedy is a lack of political will to retrieve the container that has entombed the remains of Pretty Nkambule, Solomon Nyirenda and Yvonne Mnisi.
As our country buckles under low economic output, high unemployment, poverty, and inequality, there is no doubt that the re-opening of mining activity at Lily Mine will bring much needed relief to former miners and aspirant ones.
5 years prior to the collapse of Lily Mine, the San Jose mine-collapse in Chile captured the imagination of the world. Miners were trapped 700m underground and a mine rescue operation lasting 69 days. The Chilean President, much of his cabinet and the international community, including our very own South African Mine Rescue Services, camped outside the mine lending their support to the eventual rescue of those miners.
Instead, the Lily Mine rescue operation that had been initiated, was subsequently called off on 3 March 2016, only 30 days after the collapse, never to be re-initiated.
The families of this tragedy deserve better.
ActionSA remains committed to supporting the Lily Mine families until justice is done and the bereaved families bury their loved ones with dignity.