Occupants of the Bulembu Village sitting on time bomb

BY SIHLE MAVUSO
Swazi News Ap 12, 2008


MBABANE-Bulembu Mine may be closed, but the effects of the uncontrolled asbestos fibre is still torturing the community.
Government that had a 15 percent shareholding in the mine together with its South African partner made a suicidal blunder by leaving the mine dumps and the shafts not rehabilitated.
The people are inhaling the fibre and soon they will be joining the hundreds who were working at the mine who were infected with the deadly asbestosis diseases. They are going to die. There is no cure for the disease and all that it does is eat away the lungs until the patient is breathless.
The world has since stopped the mining of asbestos and most countries like South Africa have taken serious steps in ensuring that the mines are closed and rehabilitated, however in Swaziland it has been left opened and there are no plans to rehabilitate the place.
With Bulembu Ministries hoping to use the place as an orphanage for the thousands of Swazi children who have been left vulnerable by HIV/AIDS, they might be bringing them closer to another killer.
Bulembu Ministries General Manger Andrew le Roux told this newspaper that the place needed about E50 million to rehabilitate.
Dr AT Dlamini (not PM) who worked at Bulembu before engaging in private practice said government failed to think for the people by leaving that place unattended. He said all over the world countries were taking issues of asbestosis very serious and it is only in Swaziland where a mine has been left unattended just like Bulembu.
"This is disheartening and it clearly shows that the government has failed to think for the people," he said. He mentioned that the threat posed by the mine dumps, which had been left unattended, can affect a person as far as Pigg’s Peak, about 20 kilometers away from the mine.
"On a windy day the fibre is blown to all directions and this means the threat of the deadly diseases is now not also hovering over the people who used to work there but even to the neighbouring communities," he said.
Bulembu closed down in 2001 and it was sold to a private company for E175 000 and the company later sold the land to the church for E6 million.

About Bulembu
The Havelock asbestos mine was operated from 1939 until 2001 and was a major employer and earner of foreign exchange. For most of its life the mine was owned and managed by the British conglomerate Turner & Newall. The miners of Havelock have recently failed in their efforts to bring a legal action in Britain against that company. Asbestos is a hazardous material and the attitude of management, the absence of trade unions or an effective regulatory authority meant that work conditions at Havelock were harsh.