As long ago as February last year, the mayor of Kopanong Local Municipality took to Facebook to warn about the potential tragedy of the mine in Jagersfontein.
Mayor Xolani Stalin-Tseletsele’s warning went unheeded, and on Sunday two people were killed and scores more were injured and are being treated in hospital after the mine’s dam walls burst.
In the post, Mayor Stalin-Tseletsele appears to accuse the mining company of bypassing safety regulations when the mine was constructed in 2011 by bribing politicians to turn a blind eye.
“Ten years ago the mining company came to Jagersfontein with no water-plan for its operation because at the back of its mind it had concluded that for its operation it would bribe the politicians.”
He said in his post that only a few metres from the non-compliant dam were houses of the people who are subjected to dangerous conditions.
“If that dam breaks loose, the muddy water will ruin lives, cause deaths and damage the community,” he said.
Stalin-Tseletsele has told Scrolla.Africa that after taking over the mayoral reins following the local government elections in November last year he held many meetings with the mine owners.
“The mine has always posed a danger to the community. We had a meeting with the management of the mine together with the department of water and sanitation where we discussed issues of compliance and the mine stopped operating,” he said.
“As to when and why they started working again we are yet to find out.”
He said the mine always had compliance issues but they kept operating because they felt they could bribe politicians.
“We are going to compile a report to see how many people have lost their houses, cars and furniture. Then after that there should be funding to build houses for those affected community members.
“I will be meeting with the management of the mine to make sure that they pay for all the damage the community suffered,” he said.
Shortly after Stalin-Tseletsele spoke to Scrolla.Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced an investigation into the tragedy and said that the government will look into how to support those affected.
Jagersfontein Developments, the company that manages the mine, said it has made R20 million available for affected people and the restoration of the town.
“We extend our deepest condolences to the family of the single fatality and the speedy recovery of those injured in the disaster,” the company said in a statement on Monday morning.
“The treatment facility has stabilised activity at the dam. It is cooperating with local authorities and will offer every assistance to the community while undertaking a full investigation.”
News24 reports that Reinet Investments owned by billionaire businessman Johann Rupert sold the mine to Stargems Holdings, a global diamond-cutting and polishing company, just months before the dam burst.