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11 illegal Basotho miners dead



MASERU – AT least 11 of the 21 illegal miners who were found dead and wrapped in white plastic bags just outside a disused mine in Orkney, North West province in South Africa, have been identified as Basotho. The deceased had severe burns. The bodies were found on Tuesday and Wednesday last week. Lesotho’s Consular General in Orkney, Selimo Thabane, said families of the deceased began to identify the bodies last Friday. The deceased are from Leribe and Butha-Buthe districts with one from Thaba-Tseka district. Thabane said identifying the deceased was a difficult task because some bodies were burnt beyond recognition. “Family members could identify their deceased with some body parts such as fingers,” he said. He said the identifying process is still continuing and fresh information is likely to be uncovered. Thabane said the families that have already identified the bodies of their deceased loved ones said they wanted to take them back home to Lesotho. He said the repatriation process will start this week. He said the source of the fire is not yet known but police are still continuing with their investigations. “Some say it was gas while others say it was smoke,” Thabane said. He said he could not give a concrete answer on the issue. ‘Mapuseletso Mabekebeke, whose son also died in Orkney, said she was devastated by the sad news. She said she works as a domestic worker in South Africa and only came back home after she received the sad news. Mabekebeke is a widow. Her son, aged 25, was a taxi driver in Lesotho. But he left with other men from his home Ha Malesaoana in Hlotse to work in the disused mines, lured by promises of greater returns. The illegal miners are commonly known as the “zama-zamas”, a Zulu word that means let’s try our luck. But the job is extremely dangerous. Some illegal miners spend as much as six months underground, in mines with very little safety measures. Mabekebeke said she got a call from people of her village while she was still in South Africa telling her that her son was no more. She said she had to come back home to make preparations to repatriate the body. “I am still hurt. I do not know what l am going to do,” Mabekebeke said. She said her second son who works in Welkom as a taxi driver went to the mortuary to identify his brother’s body. Majara Molupe

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