SMALL and Medium Enterprises and Co-operative Development minister Sithembiso Nyoni, who is MP for Nkayi North, yesterday blamed high unemployment in the country for the death of 23 Zimbabwean alleged miners who were gassed in a disused South African mine.
Most of the victims who died in late February in a long-abandoned and collapsed mine shaft in Roodepoort in the West Rand of Johannesburg were from Nkayi.
One family lost more than three members. Speaking during the Alpha Media Holding Conversations series at a local hotel, Nyoni said lack of employment drove most people from Matabeleland to South Africa.
“There was a memorial service recently in Nkayi which I attended.
“I spoke to several people one-on-one and all they told me was people are going to South Africa to look for jobs,” she said.
“Young people from Matabeleland are going to South Africa because they cannot fit into their own job society.
“They struggle to find opportunities for themselves even with five ‘O’ Levels.
“There are no jobs and industries are closing and that is sad.”
She said there was an urgent need for industries to be revived to create employment.
Nyoni also said she was infuriated by some people who attempted to politicise the deaths of the miners.
A war of words erupted between the country’s main political parties with each desperate to claim credit for the repatriation of the bodies.
MDC-T claimed that its supporters in the Diaspora had mobilised funds to assist in the repatriation and burial of the dead miners.
The Morgan Tsvangirai-led party accused Zanu PF of trying to gain mileage from the deaths yet its policies had driven youths to their deaths at the abandoned mine.
Zapu accused its opponents of suffering from a “vulture syndrome” by jostling for the limelight and taking advantage of the mourners.
The miners are suspected to have died after inhaling high levels of carbon monoxide underground.
Unused mines throughout South Africa, suspected to have huge gold deposits, have attracted scores of unemployed people from the Southern African region who are working with some South Africans in the mines.