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Lesotho miners remembered

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26 April, 2024The workers were going home from work when the bus accident happened at Tlaeeng Pass in Butha Buthe. Eight diamond mine workers from Kao Mine died while others were injured. 

Tankiso Tsoeu, a data analyst at Storm Mountain Diamonds’ Kao Mine who survived the accident, says the vivid memories of the horror crash continue to haunt her.

Tankiso Tsoeu, a member of the Independent Democratic Union of Lesotho (IDU), an IndustriALL affiliate, remembers:
“On 8 February 2021, during the Covid-19 pandemic, our lives were scarred in a horrendous accident. We were supposed to go home, and excited to finally have a break and be with our families after working on a 12-hour shift for 14 days. The buses which arrived at Kao Mine at midday brought the incoming shift workers and were also supposed to take us home.”   

“I was exhausted when we boarded the bus and fell asleep when the bus started moving. After what felt like a few minutes-although it was more than an hour- I felt my head hitting something, and lost consciousness. Then a colleague woke me up. I could see we were in a bus wreck lying on its side and workers were shouting for help. The driver had lost control on a road which had become slippery following a hailstorm and the bus had overturned.”

Tankiso Tsoeu recalls how workers were trapped in the wreckage.  

“Whilst injured workers were rescued from the bus, unfortunately others were trapped. Some were even under the bus. There are no words to describe seeing someone lose their life while you watch and cannot do anything to help them.”

To worsen the tragedy, there was no mobile telephone connection.

“Amongst the survivors, most had lost their phones and there was no mobile network coverage. One of us had to walk up a mountain to try and find a network connection to call for help.”

The workers only got help when rescue teams arrived from Letseng and Kao Mines.  

“Sadly, some workers died on the spot, while those with serious injuries were taken to Queen Mamohato Memorial Hospital in Maseru. Out of 35 passengers, eight died.”

The survivors received treatment at Letseng mine clinic and Kao Mine hired a medical doctor and clinical psychologist to attend to the workers.

Despite all the help she received, Tankiso Tsoeu says recovery has been tough.

“I am still battling. The most difficult part is that everyone expects you to be fully recovered after three years and talking about the accident might seem an exaggeration. Yet I face every day struggles especially with anxiety which never used to be the case before the accident. Recalling episodes of the anguish of the trapped miners often leads to sleepless nights.”

Glen Mpufane, IndustriALL director of mining and lead for occupational health and safety, said: 

“As we commemorate the International Commemoration Day for Dead and Injured Workers, we remember the eight Kao mine workers and wish the survivors full recovery from the scars and trauma emanating from the accident. We commend the efforts of both Letseng mine clinic and Kao mine for providing post-traumatic treatment to the injured workers, recognizing that the duty of care extends beyond the mine fence.”