Declare SA deaths a national disaster

THE business-as-usual approach by the government in the wake of South Africa’s Roodepoort Mine disaster where at least 22 Zimbabweans have been confirmed dead is a cause for concern.

Zimbabweans in the Diaspora have been scrambling to raise at least R53 000 to transport the bodies that have been retrieved so far back home for burial. Those closely following the situation believe the number of the dead could actually be above 200, but is unlikely that all the bodies would be retrieved because of the dangerous conditions at the disused mine.

Home Affairs minister Kembo Mohadi said he should not be bothered when he was contacted by a Southern Eye journalist on Saturday to inquire what the government was doing to assist the victims.

Mohadi was among the invited guests at the wedding of President Robert Mugabe’s daughter Bona in Harare. His response would have been scandalous if we were in another country.

The death of 22 people by any standards is a national tragedy that should have jolted the government to do something for the families of the victims. According to reports, the relatives, some of whom have been camping at the mine hoping for the remaining bodies to be brought to the surface, have not received much help from the Zimbabwean embassy in South Africa.

The precedence that had been set when such tragedies arose was that the government would declare the deaths a national disaster to allow for State-assisted funerals.

Considering that most of those who died were illegal immigrants, the Zimbabwean embassy should be working closely with relatives of the deceased to speedily process the necessary papers to transport the bodies back home.

Raising money to transport the bodies should not be left to well-wishers in the Diaspora, but should be a responsibility of the Zimbabwe government.

On another note, the unfortunate deaths are a painful reminder of what the unsustainable lack of jobs in Zimbabwe is doing to youths who are now forced to eke out a living under very dangerous conditions in foreign countries.

Such tragedies should also be a wake-up call to the government, which seems to be paying lip service to job creation despite the ambitious projections set out in Zanu PF’s election manifesto last year.

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