The Sunday News
BARRY Daka, a Zimbabwe football legend, says sport in Hwange took a knock after the June 6, 1972 Kamandama Disaster.
On Thursday next week it will be 47 years.
The accident, the worst mining disaster in the history of the country, claimed the lives of 427. Nationalities from over 30 countries from across the world were buried underground and the Number 2 underground mine sealed a few days later as it became apparent that no one would be found alive.
Rescuers’ lives were also under threat as methane stayed a potent danger to ignite more fire.
Daka was a fulltime sportsperson attached to the Wankie FC first team and working in the sports department.
After guiding Highlanders FC to the first division, the then elite league in the country, Daka’s stock on the field of play was still rising.
While there is no footballer in the Hwange first team who died, one of the players’ father was a victim.
This was the father of forward Obert Agayi who left months after the disaster to his native home in Zambia.
The Chronicle caught up with Daka who recounted the ordeal of hearing that dozens of people from his community had perished. He describes the solemn atmosphere that engulfed Hwange and how sport was also affected and took a big knock in that year with Hwange nearly relegated as the weight of the tragedy could not be shaken off.
“It was a solemn moment for Hwange and the rest of the world. The day had begun like most Wankie days in summer with us the first team training at Old Ground in Lwendulu Village.
“I remember it must have been between 10-12 noon. Suddenly were explosions from the direction of Madumabisa. We did not know what was happening, then there was a sudden gush of dark smoke from that end of the town. Remember during those days communication was not as effective as nowadays, we did not have mobile phones, so we were all ignorant of what was really happening and that a fair fraction of the Colliery workforce was no more and that hundrerds of wives and children had lost breadwinners,” said Daka with so much emotion in his eyes.
Daka said he jumped into the sports department which was driven by former Hwange athlete, player and coach James Mwape Sakala and had the legendary Steven Chuma who would normally in any day have been dropped at Madumabisa (No 2) and Makwika (No 3).
As they got close to the mine entrance where hundreds of Hwange residents had used any means possible to get to, Daka said they found teammate Agayi who worked at the Check Point Office covered in soot and dust gasping for breath. There was pandemonium all over as anxious wives, workmates, colleagues and everyone wanted to literally go down the shafts and tunnels to rescue the 427 miners.
“That was a horrific day and experience. I have failed to erase it off my mind. The whole community was thrown into mourning and turmoil. Dreams were cut short and with hundreds left widows, children left with no fathers and we the survivors without neighbours and friends.
“It was a big blow. We all felt the same, empty, very depressed and not knowing where and how normal life would resume. It’s sad that chapter has haunted many for decades,” said Daka.
Daka said Agayi packed his bags and left for Zambia months after the disaster which had robbed him of his father.
On the sporting front Daka said they were affected. The football club that campaigned in the Rhodesian National Football League top division was nearly relegated.
“We failed to lift ourselves as a team. We struggled as a club and came close to being relegated but somehow we held on and survived,” said the legendary Barbourfields senior citizen.
In the following year Hwange atoned for the poor showing with a strong run that culminated in a top finish in the South Division and a Castle Cup final triumph over Dynamos in a marathon shootout in a match handled by Premji Giga.
Daka, a brilliant midfielder and later successful coach was in the same team with other Hwange legends like Posani Sibanda, Twyman Ncube, Amos Rendo, Chutika Tembo, Steven Chuma, Daniel Rendo, Isaac Phiri and Chris Yoyo at a club where Cyprian Ngoma and Mwape Sakala had been vital cogs in the 1960s and had been elevated to coaching roles at the time of another legendary figure Jack Meagher who coached Hwange and the great Chibuku Shumba side.
Daka is always indebted to his over 40 months in Hwange where he was forced into coaching as a young player.
“After quitting Bata Shoes who had taken me to Hwange, I was fulltime in the Hwange sports department where I would apart from playing be involved in coaching youths. Many players emerged from that initiative and rose to stardom.
“I returned to Highlanders in 1974 and found an even stronger and different side to the one I left in 1970. There were the likes of Bruce Grobbelaar, Itai Chieza, Isaac Mafaro, the Nxumalo brothers James and Josiah, Highlanders were a great side and playing breathtaking football that mesmerised many opponents,” he said.
Daka won everything that Zimbabwe had to offer including a podium finish in the 1995 All-Africa Games.
In 2000 he was co-coach with Misheck (Marimo) Chidzambwa with Gibson Homela the manager when Zimbabwe won its first Cosafa Castle Cup.
Daka is now at Bulawayo City assisting in the development structures with Ali Dube, Innocent Mapuranga and Bruce Tshuma.
Daka believes with the passage of time health and safety awareness has improved in the mining sector and industry.