11 Basotho illegal miners confirmed dead in SA

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Nthatuoa Koeshe

ELEVEN of out 20 illegal miners, whose bodies were last week discovered at Orkney Mine in South Africa’s North West Province, have been positively identified as Basotho.

This was confirmed by Lesotho’s Consul General, Selimo Thabane, in an interview with the Lesotho Times this week.

All in all, 20 bodies were found wrapped in grain bags outside the abandoned mine. They are suspected to have died in an underground mining accident. South African authorities are still investigating the cause of the deaths.

Over the weekend, Mr Thabane and North West premier, Job Mokgoro, accompanied some Basotho families to Tshepisong Mortuary, Klerksdorp where they positively identified 11 bodies.

Mr Thabane said they had initially received reports that 15 dead miners were thought to be from Lesotho.

However, only 11 bodies had been identified because the rest did not have any form of identification on them.

“Family members were able to identify 11 bodies and we have started the repatriation processes,” Mr Thabane said.

“There are other bodies without name tags and we urge people to come forward and help identify the bodies.

“We were able to find the deceased miners’ relatives with the assistance of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS), chiefs and councillors,” he said.

He said the deaths were attributable to the economic challenges in Lesotho which had forced many people to trek to South Africa in search of opportunities to sustain their livelihoods.

He called on the Lesotho government to urgently find ways of growing the economy to create jobs to reduce the number of people flocking to South Africa and ending up as illegal miners.

“Basotho are flocking into South Africa in large numbers in search of greener pastures. It is high time the government comes up with a roadmap that addresses unemployment.

“I believe that job creation at home will go a long way in reducing the number of people who come to South Africa illegally. The main reason why people are going to South Africa is because of unemployment. It is time we look at long-term solutions in order to curb these avoidable deaths. I will engage the government on this matter,” Mr Thabane said.

He said he had held meetings with Mr Mokgoro to find ways of curbing the problem of illegal Basotho miners in South Africa.

“We are working together to find ways to address the issue. It is unfortunate that these accidents have been recurring for decades now. We have to come up with ways of addressing the problem effectively. Therefore, discussions have already started, we intend to come up with a permanent solution,” Mr Thabane said, adding it was still premature to reveal the exact details of their discussions.

Meanwhile, Mr Mokgoro released a statement, saying, “the situation calls for drastic deliberate action that should happen almost immediately.

“We have to strengthen our integrated approach towards dealing with illegal mining. Our efforts must be more sustainable and long lasting in terms of effectiveness. Going forward we will pull all our resources together to combat, counter and eradicate this menace completely,” Mr Mokgoro said.

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