A man stands quietly staring at the ground, his hands clasped tightly, grief written across his face. His cousin leans against him. She softly cries, calling for her brothers. “What do I do? What do I tell my mother? My four brothers are gone. How do I tell her all her sons are dead? Just like that, it’s only me,” whispers Charlotte Mapuya as her cousin holds her tightly. Mapuya’s four brothers — 28-year-old twins and their siblings aged 24 and 22 — were killed instantly along with more than 40 other zama zamas (illegal miners) in a suspected methane gas explosion 3km underground in a decommissioned Harmony Gold mine in Welkom, Free State. The force of last Thursday’s explosion was felt across the mining town — the epicentre of South Africa’s gold mine basin. It shook buildings, rattled windows and, said residents, made their furniture move. Many, however, paid no attention: it was just the zama zamas. Unbeknown to most, dozens were instantly vaporised or burnt beyond recognition. S...

BL Premium

This article is reserved for our subscribers.

A subscription helps you enjoy the best of our business content every day along with benefits such as exclusive Financial Times articles, ProfileData financial data, and digital access to the Sunday Times and Sunday Times Daily.

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Questions or problems? Email helpdesk@businesslive.co.za or call 0860 52 52 00. Got a subscription voucher? Redeem it now