As a sombre atmosphere engulfed Nugget Mine after the death of five illegal miners on Monday, a woman from Bulawayo’s Old Pumula suburb cast a lone figure a few metres from the crowded scene.
She was the epitome of sorrow and anxiety as she sat stoop shouldered on a mound holding her chin in apparent sorrow, suspecting that her husband could be among the dead.
Her black headgear, black skirt and striped jersey made her appear as if she was already in mourning.
When volunteer workers made up of illegal miners (commonly known as amakorokoza) retrieved jackets, caps and other items from the mine Maria Ncube (33) shed copious tears. She pointed at a bloodstained jacket.
“That belongs to my husband Nobukhosi Bhebhe and the cap is his,” she said between sobs.
She became the centre of attraction as most of the eyes that included those of Matabeleland South Minister of State for Provincial Affairs Abednico Ncube, senior army officials and police officials, villagers and illegal miners were cast on her.
“I don’t know whether my husband is among those trapped underground or is among the deceased,” she said.
She had last spoken to Bhebhe last week on Sunday at around 8pm.
“He had called me informing me that he had arrived at the mine,” she disclosed.
Bhebhe, she said, could have foreseen his death.
“When I last spoke to him, he said: “We have discovered gold rich deposits. There is a mad dash into the mine. I do not know whether I will make it,” said Ncube.
Her woes were not over!
Her husband had told her to come and fetch RTGS$800 but she could not get it.
“He had told me to come and collect money for school fees for our children but I could not get it. The security guard professed ignorance about it,” she said.
Police officers advised her to check her husband’s body at the United Bulawayo Hospitals.
On Wednesday, B-Metro caught up with Ncube and she narrated the pain of discovering her husband was no more.
“I walked on wooden legs into the mortuary at UBH this morning. I had not heard from my husband and I feared the worst. Everything seemed unreal,” she said in a small voice.
“Five covered bodies lay on a slab. An attendant uncovered each face. My world collapsed when I saw my husband.”
“What I can tell you is that my husband passed away. We are gathered here at Old Pumula as we are making burial arrangements. He left behind six children.”