On Monday, 12 September 2022, Archbishop Zolile Mpambani, the Archbishop of Bloemfontein, conducted a pastoral visit to the parish and communities affected by the mine dam collapse at Jagersfontein. As a follow up to his visit, the Justice and Peace of the Archdiocese of Bloemfontein and SACBC Justice and Peace Commission also conducted a solidarity visit to the parish and the affected communities on Tuesday, 13th September.
Fr. Stan Muyebe, the Director of the Justice and Peace Commission, said the solidarity visit gave an opportunity to listen and pray with the affected communities. “There are close to 15 Catholic families that have been affected by the incident.” Fr. Muyebe also noted that the parish priest and other faith leaders were actively involved in meetings that the government officials convened to plan the immediate relief to the victims in the aftermath of the disaster. He said even though the government has taken measures to provide temporary relief to the victims (including accommodation and food), more will need to be done to find a permanent and comprehensive solution to the plight of those who are homeless.
The Director of Justice and Peace Commission is of a view that the disaster could have been prevented. He said the solidarity visit therefore “offered an opportunity to do an assessment of the situation on the ground and explore possibilities of the Church working with the affected communities to demand justice and accountability from the mine owners and the government.” According to Fr Muyebe, the SACBC Justice and Peace will on Wednesday, 14th September, meet lawyers for further consultation on possible avenues to ensure the victims access reparation that they need to rebuild their homes and livelihoods. “Legal firms will also be in a position to secure documents that can paint a picture of what actually happened, how the disaster could have been prevented and who should bear the responsibility for reparation of the victims,” added Fr. Muyebe.
He advised that amid the pain, anger and grief in the community, there is a lot of healing that needs to happen. “More important, the victims and the affected communities need our prayers.” He also pointed out that during the visit, he community shared that four people have lost their lives, close to 100 families have had their houses either swept off or suffer structural damage, five people are still missing. “We will therefore continue to pray for God’s mercy and healing upon those who have lost their loved ones, their homes, their livelihoods as the result of the disaster which could have been prevented,” said Fr. Stan Muyebe.