Jagersfontein dam burst could have been avoided: Analyst

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Some observers say the Jagersfontein dam burst in the Free State could have been avoided had the government investigated former Free State Economic Development MEC Mxolisi Dukwana’s testimony at the State Capture Commission.

At least one person died and two are still missing following the mine sludge dam burst on September 11, causing massive damage to infrastructure and houses.

In 2019, Dukwana, a former council member in the Free State Provincial Government, testified of alleged corruption in relation to the mine.

Dukwana implicated former Free State Premier Ace Magashule, Duduzane Zuma and Tony Gupta, testifying that he was offered R2 million to sign a deal in relation to the mine.

Political Analyst Ralph Mathekga says, “It will be on how regulations were followed thereof when a tragedy such as this takes place, you go back and certain investigations will have to go back and [look at] has there been any investigation in terms of required regulations on managing the tail dams. And also whether that dam has been maintained, to what extent, the problem that has happened recently, how far does this problem go back, has there been lax of regulation in that area? Is there anything that could’ve been prevented?”

Growing beliefs that the Jagersfontein disaster could have been avoided:

Mine management of Jagersfontein Development is adamant that there was no indication of a looming threat.

The mine’s legal compliance officer, Marius de Villiers, says they complied with all safety measures.

De Villiers was speaking during a visit by Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe to the sludge-devastated town.

“A new licence was issued and that licence was what we operated on up until now and we have complied with all those conditions, that’s why I am saying the last and I have said it previously as well, the last engineering report that was submitted by the mine was in June because we have to do that quarterly. We have complied with that,” says De Villiers.

At least 20 people were admitted to hospital following the mine dam burst in Jagersfontein:

Helping hand

Humanitarian aid organisation, Gift of the Givers and the South African Red Cross Association helped with relief measures.

Gift of the Givers relief coordinator, Corene Conradie, said at the time: “And so, we will provide the feeding for those families and also clothing is in need as everything has been washed under the sludge. So, we will also provide clothing. Apart from the communities, there will be aspect of families. This is the biggest humanitarian crisis at the moment. Because the sheep are unable to eat, the grass or anything from the ground it’s been contaminated. So we are looking at providing food and the farmers have been calling for us to assist them.”

South African Red Cross Association Provincial manager Claudia Mangwegape said, “We have identified their needs for blankets, mattresses, clothes as well as water at this moment. So, we are trying to assist as much as we can, so we brought all the relief items. We will be working with other NGOs close with the Department of Social Development and other partners.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa applauded the residents of Jagersfontein for the manner in which they handled the disaster.

Ramaphosa appealed to residents not to lose hope as the government is doing everything in its power to restore the dignity of the people.

Ramaphosa told the affected residents that the government will work tirelessly to rebuild destroyed houses.

“We are here to come and help and pledge support and help the people of Jagersfontein. So, we are grateful for that, so in the end, you are going to have three layers of government, you’re going to have national government, as you can see, we are here. You’re going to have the provincial government, they geared into action immediately. I was very impressed with Mrs Ntombela as she acted fast with her MEC,” said Ramaphosa.