Family of Jagersfontein mine disaster gutted

PHOTO: Lucky Nkuyane

The family of a victim of the Jagersfontein mine disaster, whose body was retrieved a few days ago outside town, says they are gutted by the death of an elder man.

The body of Shadrack Williams (77) was retrieved 15 kilometres outside Jagersfontein on Friday 30 September 2022 by authorities during the search and discovery operation.

The deceased’s nephew Mosala Shadrack Williams (48), named after Shadrack Williams, tells OFM News that despite being relieved and grateful for the discovery of the body, their souls and spirits remain dampened over this. Mosala says he was part of the group of family members who identified the deceased at the government mortuary in Bloemfontein on Tuesday 4 October 2022. He says the deceased was identified by a stripped T-shirt worn on the day of the mudslide disaster which claimed the lives of 2 people, left scores injured, over 200 destitute or homeless and over 100 houses destroyed.

The deceased is set to be buried on Saturday 8 October 2022 in Jagersfontein, with the funeral set to start at 7:30 am.

“As the family, we are very saddened by this. But we are happy that at least his body was retrieved by authorities so that we can prepare and bid him farewell. The whole time we were asking ourselves questions if we were ever going to find him but with God’s grace, he was found.

When this disaster occurred I was at a farm where I am employed and I got a call from family members. That’s when I rushed home but it was too late. I was told that the disaster had already happened and we found his house destroyed by the mudslide where he stayed with a child of his younger sister. The old man was not mentally stable,” Mosala adds.

Community leader Lefa Shale has since described the deceased as a gentle soul. I knew Williams and his family for many years.

On Sunday 11 September 2022, the Jagersfontein mine wall burst, releasing tons of mud that destroyed various residential and municipal infrastructure, estimated to be worth millions of rands.

This infrastructure included the Eskom electrical power lines and municipal power stations.

The Trompsburg-based Kopanong Local Municipality in the Free State alleged that neglect played a big part in the disaster when the wall of the mine’s tailings dam collapsed. The municipality’s spokesperson, Solomzi Phama, said negligence led to this flood disaster.

The mine has, however, availed R20 million to help and assist affected residents.

According to the mine spokesperson, Leigh Ann Carey, R20 million has been made available with immediate effect. “It is cooperating with the law enforcement authorities and will offer every assistance to the community while undertaking a full investigation. We further have confirmation that the waste water is not hazardous. Jagersfontein Development remains committed to the well-being of the community and will lead clean-up operations,” Carey added.

Lucky Nkuyane/ OFM News