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Beitbridge houses built on collapsing mine tunnels

BY REX MPHISA

A DOZEN families in the HaMbedzi section of Dulivhadzimo suburb in Beitbridge are living in fear of an imminent disaster after they were allocated stands and built their houses above a disused mine whose shafts are now collapsing.

Effects of the ground movement are glaring, and manifest in cracking walls and unfamiliar sounds and vibrations when vehicles pass.

Recent heavy rains have compounded the problem and homeowners have blocked their roads from vehicular traffic as a precautionary measure.

At one of the houses, a small crater has formed in the carpark after the ground yielded, opening an entrance to three underground tunnels shown to journalists at the weekend.

“We are aware of the problem and we are awaiting recommendations from the Mines ministry. We have engaged them, but they seem to be having logistical problems and we may have to go and collect them to find a way forward,” Beitbridge town clerk Loud Ramagkapola said yesterday.

“We have to rely on maps to see how this mine progressed and this information can only be provided by the relevant ministry,” he said.

Homeowners are not happy with the pace at which authorities are moving and feel officials were negligent in their duties.

“From what we have discovered, the existence of this mine is common knowledge and those who planned and allocated these stands were negligent. Frankly, this is the reason why we are saying someone must quit his job after putting so many lives in danger,” one of the affected houseowners, who refused to be named, said.

“These people [council officials] tell us they are locals who know everything; how could they blunder like this? Anything could have happened here. We are just lucky, nothing worse happened,” he said.

Farirai Majuru, who is also one of the affected and at whose home the crater has formed, said when it rains he takes his family to rooms at the back of the house far from
where the ground opened up.

“But we do not know maybe it’s even more dangerous where we rush to; it is just for the comfort that we are far from the opening which is where we used to park,” he said.

“I have, in the past four years, been going to Bulawayo and Masvingo (to see Mines ministry officials) on my own and the officials who gave us these stands are comfortable in their homes and offices while danger hovers above us,” he said.

He paid $7 000 for the stand in 2010 and built his home.

“We now park cars outside, they could be too heavy for the ground,” he said.
His house has numerous cracks, most likely caused by the unstable ground.

His relative, Justin Chadzima went into the sink hole and discovered tunnels that he could walk upright in.

“They stretch for long distances and I could not see where they end. There are three passages supported by poles in the beginning, but as they progress there are no pillars,”
he said.

Peter Tatisai, Majuru’s neighbour, told similar tales and said he assisted in closing the road that passes in front of their houses.

Similar situations have been reported in Kwekwe where illegal gold miners reportedly dug under a classroom block as they searched for gold reserves.

Both Majuru and Tatisai said council should service stands in other areas and relocate them to avert loss of life.

They said the local authority faces a huge bill considering the large number of houses threatened by the mine whose history is unknown.

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