Tunatazama - Community Monitors


Thabang Thembani

The majority of people in the community break down with emotions when they reminisce about how nice life was when all the four mines that surround Nyakallong used to be in operation. Some express that families used to be happy, especially on the 15th or the end of every month. The mother of the house would be waiting for the father of the house to come back from work so that they would be able to go to town to buy groceries.  The kids will be waiting by the gate waiting for their father to come back home with the sweets and other nice stuff. This dream ended earlier than anyone could think. Mines started to shut down one by one and the happiness that was found in the family unit was slowly diminishing and the place that was once breathing joy started to exhale the bad smell of misery. The legacy of mining is not seen only in the social breakdown of society but also in the environmental deterioration and health complications of society. A concerned resident of Nyakallong, Siziba Elias describes how as the community, ‘the people whose time to die is determined by the amount of air pollution they Inhale and the diseases they contract.  Physical and mental traumas they experience from working in these mines, either way, we are all walking corpses’ 

“Tragedy befell us when three of these four mines surrounding Nyakallong started to close down, starting with Jeanette Mine which was closed in the late 1990s, Harmony Shaft 2 which was closed in the early 2000s, and Harmony Shaft 3 which has been opening and closing, leaving shaft 1, Target mine in operation. The closing of these Mines left the community in social disaster – most breadwinners were left unemployed, others sick with diseases like silicosis, Tuberculosis, and/or audio-visual problems due to radiation exposure. Some of these former mine workers were not compensated for both health and emotional trauma caused by these mines that have shut down.” 

“’The last time I worked a permanent job was in 2005 before I was retrenched from the mine because of health complications caused by the same mine, I have been struggling ever since with my family doing odd jobs. The problem with us, former mine workers is that we are not educated. I don’t remember being compensated for the chest problems I experienced because of the mine. I even gave up because I had no one to help me at that time, and you can’t just go around talking about your life and challenges to anyone.”  Mr Ntabeni, who lives in Allanridge and is also a former mine worker was retrenched from the mine because of chest complications and Tuberculosis, lamented. 

“The most debilitating experience is the closure of the local hospital called Chesty, which was built by the government. This hospital was designed to help with respiratory diseases since Nyakallong is a Hotspot for respiratory diseases by being situated near the mines. The left rescue BECAME a general public health care facility, that is having a hard time to cater for the entire community. ‘The two local clinics are struggling to cater to every patient of this community, we are trying to do whatever we can to help patients of Tuberculosis the best way we know how. That’s why we always refer these patients to the hospitals in Odendaalsrus, Welkom, and Bloemfontein hospitals when we can not meet their medical needs, we hope it gets better with time though.” The local nurse working in Leratong Clinic proclaims. 

However, in recent years, the unemployment forum was formed to at least find ways to secure employment for the unemployed residents from the Mines and other existing Companies around Nyakallong to bring back the dignity of a family unit and the joy the community experienced. The community is uniting in the formation of a movement as activism against environmental and health rights violations.