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...

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