Flora Fadzai Sibanda, Chronicle Reporter
PRESIDENT Mnangagwa has sent a message of condolence to families of 10 men who died in a veld fire in Esigodini, Matabeleland South Province, and directed that assistance, including funeral expenses be rendered to the affected families.
The 10 men died when they were trapped in a mountainous area while fighting a raging veld fire at Rose Farm Mine.
Five were burnt beyond recognition and DNA tests will be done to identify them.
A mine is located within the farm and the deceased were both farm and mine workers.
In a statement yesterday, President Mnangagwa said news of the horrific deaths came as a shock to him. He said it is quite clear that veld fires have become a real threat to life and property.
“A new national strategy is now needed to minimise this growing menace whose risk increases by the day until we get our first rains for the summer season. Both the ministry in charge of our environment, and our Civil Protection Department have to urgently get together so a comprehensive response to veld fires is developed across all provinces,” said the President.
The President said Government will assist the bereaved families.
“I have since instructed the Government to move in with assistance to the affected families, including meeting funeral expenses,” said President Mnangagwa.
The President wished those who survived the inferno a speedy recovery.
“On behalf of the party, Zanu-PF, Government, my family and on my own behalf, I wish to express my deep, heartfelt condolences to families which have lost their loved ones in this veld fire incident,” said the President.
The veld fire, according to eye witnesses started in the morning and the 10 were part of a group of 15 people who had been called in to put it out.
The 10 were trapped by the raging fire which was worsened by strong winds. Four of the fire fighters escaped with burns of varying degrees.
On Monday, one of the survivors, Mr Mhlaliswa Ngwenya, who had burns on his hand and head, told Chronicle that he owes his survival to God.
“We were battling to put out the fire as a group and unfortunately were surrounded by flames of the raging fire which covered a large area.
There was a gust of wind that blew the fire towards our direction. We ran to the mountain, but we were surrounded by flames of the raging fire making it difficult to escape,” said Mr Ngwenya.
He said he had no option but to run through the flames to escape, hence he was burnt.
“I was burnt on the arms and head. I could hear the screams of the men being consumed by the fire. I collapsed when I got to the dust road and that is where a man helped me up and started seeking help.”
Mr Ngwenya went to Esigodini District Hospital on Monday morning and was discharged in the evening on the same day. He said when they returned to the mountain that is when they found the charred bodies of his colleagues at different locations.
The owner of the farm, Mr Abel Moyo, said he was left dumbfounded following the death of 10 people who were killed trying to rescue the farm and its property from the raging fire.
“When I heard about the fire and that it had killed people, I was devastated. I came and we were told that there were nine people but when we started looking around the area, we found one more body.
“People just trespass and nothing is done. They move around and even stay in your land without permission. And when such things happen no one is held accountable. We are afraid to protest, confront or say anything,” said Mr Moyo, while referring to the menace of illegal miners. – @flora_sibanda.
Article Source: The Chronicle