Widows, workers relive Hwange disaster horror

Forty years after the June 6 1972 Kamandama mine disaster, which claimed 427 Hwange Colliery miners following a suspected gas mine shaft explosion, Myles Craven still vividly remembers the horrific incident.

Widows of the miners killed in the 1972 disaster at the memorial service last week.
Widows of the miners killed in the 1972 disaster at the memorial service last week.

Aged 33 then, he was working at the mine as a Surface Engineer when the disaster struck.

“It was around 10:30 am when huge explosions shook the mine. When I heard the explosion, I realised that there was trouble and I quickly rushed out of my office and mobilised other engineers to set up an incident room at colliery number two,” he told The Zimbabwean during the 40th anniversary commemorations of the disaster last week.

Craven (75), now based in Scotland, said he and other surface engineers did not have knowledge about underground operations and could not do anything to rescue the miners.

“If we would have been trained in rescue operations we could have probably saved some of the miners.It was hard to come to terms with the calamity,” he said.

He lost several friends in the explosion, which casted a dark shadow over not only in the mining town, but the entire nation and beyond.Miners from South Africa, Angola, Zambia, Malawi and Costa Rica died in the disaster.When all rescue operations by rescue teams from South Africa failed, the mine was sealed.

Michelle Crystal, only five years old when the disaster happened, lost her father. “My mother had difficult times raising the family. It was very painful to lose a parent at such a tender age,” she said.

Crystal said her mother was given $21 000 by the company as compensation, which she used to buy a house in Harare. She travelled from South Africa to lay a wreath at the memorial site, and expressed concern over lack of publicity of the event and communication between Hwange Colliery Company and relatives and friends of the deceased miners.

“I strongly feel the company should constantly keep in touch with widows and relatives of the departed miners. Relatives like myself have been in the dark about what is happening.Even these commemorations, I only learnt of them through friends in Harare. There are a lot of people around the world who lost relatives and friends during the disaster but do not know what is happening,” she said.

“When 33 miners were trapped and eventually rescued in Chile about three years ago, the incident attracted a lot of international publicity. Now we are talking about the commemorations of 427 miners who lost their lives and there is deafening silence from the world,” she added.

Tendai Zishiri, who lost her husband in the disaster, said the company has begun to treat the widows better during the past four years.

“The company had forgotten us. We used not to get even food during commemoration days. Now the company has realised its mistake and assists us with a bit of money and funeral expenses,” she said.

Zishiri said 77 widows were still living and through the Kamandama Widows Association they were trying to negotiate with the company for more benefits.

Post published in: News
  1. Munyaradzi Mandigora

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