Bodies of two of the five miners who were trapped after a mine shaft collapsed at Task Mining Syndicate in Chegutu on September 8 have been retrieved by artisanal miners who are continuing to search for the other three bodies.
The body of Shingai Gwatidzo (20), which was among the two that were retrieved on Saturday was buried at Borgan Villa resettlement area in Mhondoro yesterday. It was in an advanced state of decomposition.
Fellow artisanal miners defied a Government directive to stop the search for the bodies of their trapped colleagues after all hope was abandoned of finding the five alive. The artisanal miners discovered the bodies 51 days after the incident.
Efforts to locate the other three bodies are continuing despite Government’s directive to suspend operations to avoid further loss of lives.
The second recovered body is yet to be identified owing to the degree of decomposition.
Apart from Gwatidzo, the other trapped miners were Munashe Nyamukanga (16), Charles Mutume (31), Crynos Nyamukanga (44) and Constantino Dzinoreva (47).
Chegutu district Civil Protection Unit (CPU) chairperson, Mr Tariro Tomu, said the artisanal miners clandestinely continued rescue operations after Government ordered their suspension on October 2, citing safety concerns.
“Management at Task Mining Syndicate confirmed to me that they have discovered two bodies which they are yet to retrieve. Their efforts continued outside the directive that we issued but as the CPU, we have secured five coffins for their decent burials.”
Despite lack of proper equipment and the threat of a possible shaft collapse, the artisanal miners manoeuvred through the 140-metre deep shaft and its complex tunnels in search of the bodies of their colleagues.
A sombre atmosphere engulfed the site when Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe (ACCZ) executive moderator, Archbishop Johannes Ndanga, helped break the news of the discovery of the bodies to family members before giving a prayer.
He said the efforts by artisanal miners had helped bring closure to the families’ concerns.
“When such accidents occur, we should strive by all means to preserve our culture by letting relatives of the deceased bury their loved ones.
“I urge our mining inspectors to also consider the cultural implications that are attached to such unfortunate incidence. It was my wish that the five trapped get decent burials and as the church, we will not only render spiritual support but financial as well during the entire course of their burial,” he said.
Gwatidzo’s parents said although they had been devastated by the death of their son, the breakthrough had given them peace of mind.
“Sadly, we lost our son in the mishap and although our hopes were to see him alive, God has chosen his way of ending his life. I am, however, glad that finally, I have given my son a proper burial. I am also touched by the sympathy that hundreds of villagers and Chief Ngezi have shown,” said Mr Gwatidzo.
“My son had registered for six Ordinary Level subjects for the November examination. He had shown to be a very good athlete, representing the province’s secondary schools at national level last year and excelling in practical subjects.
“He chose to retake the subjects he failed last year with the hope of passing this year,” his mother Mrs Yeukai Gwatidzo.
Crynos Nyamukanga’s two wives, Ellen Nyongoro (34) and Elizabeth Nyirenda (40) are still camped at the site hoping that their husband will be found.
“When he left home, he urged us to unite as his wives. He also said he would raise and save enough money for a tractor to help maximise production at our plot,” an emotional Ms Nyirenda said.
The second wife, Ms Nyongoro, was also struggling to come to terms with the loss of Munashe Nyamukanga, her first born son.
With tears running down her chicks, she said: “My husband was finding it hard to support his polygamous life. I had begun to put hope on Munashe as he was a bright child at school,” she said.
Gogo Mutume, who is taking care of Charles’ two young girls, pleaded with well-wishers to chip in the upkeep of the children left under her care.
Ulate Dzinoreva, whose father (Constantino Dzinoreva) is also yet to be found, said he had premonitions about his untimely death.
Task Mining Syndicate chairperson, Mr Timothy Masviba said coffins and food had so far been secured for the burial of the five and pleaded with well-wishers to chip in with transport as the five were going to be buried in different parts of the country.
“We have discovered two and I am sure by tomorrow we would have discovered the remaining three. We have raised money for coffins and food towards burial processes but because the CPU has chipped in with coffins, we will put some of the funds to transport costs,” he said.
The syndicate is working with the Ministry of Mines, police and the CPU to map the way forward.