Limpopo ‘zama-zamas’ nabbed with R1m chrome

More than 40 alleged zama-zamas have been arrested in connection with the illegal mining of chrome at a mine in Limpopo.

The 43 suspects, including 41 Zimbabweans, one Mozambican and one South African, were allegedly caught red-handed at Ga-Phasha village near Mecklenburg, shortly before midnight on Wednesday.

Police said they confiscated R1-million worth of chrome and mining equipment, including hammers and generators.

“Police confiscated 12 generators and 10 jackhammers valued at R170 000 and chrome estimated to be more than R1-million,” said provincial police spokesperson Col Malesela Ledwaba.

Ledwaba said they all faced charges of illegal mining of a precious metal. He said since the foreign nationals were undocumented, they faced an additional charge for contravention of the Immigration Act.

“The suspects were apprehended during a joint intelligence operation conducted by the members of the Provincial Illegal Mining Task Team, Provincial Organised Crime Unit together with the RR Undercover Security Company at Ga-Phasha village under Sefateng mine’s jurisdiction.

“Police received information about illegal mining activities and reacted swiftly. Upon arrival, police found the suspects mining chrome without authorisation. When the suspects saw police, they ran into the nearby bushes and others went inside the self-made tunnels to avoid being nabbed.

“The scene was cordoned off and 43 suspects were apprehended. Policing of illegal mining operations are continuing across the province.”

Limpopo Police Commissioner Lieut-Gen Thembi Hadebe said they were happy with the arrests. “Police will stop at nothing in ensuring that the perpetrators of these crimes are arrested and ultimately incarcerated for justice to prevail.”

Police Minister Bheki Cele and National Commissioner Lieut-Gen Fannie Masemola have escalated the fight against illegal mining over the past several months. This has resulted in the arrest of hundreds of zama-zamas, with some linked to other crimes within the mining communities, iñcluding armed robberies, rapes and murder.

Last August, the Hawks unit arrested 48 zama-zamas in Mokopane, Limpopo, with more arrests taking place at a smaller scale across the province.

It is not surprising to see 42 of the Mecklenburg suspects being undocumented foreign nationals.

The Minerals Council of South Africa has previously reported that 70% of all suspects arrested on charges of illegal mining are undocumented foreign nationals from Lesotho while others are from Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

The council said illegal miners usually targeted abandoned mines.

Independent political analyst Gakwi Mashego, said it was shameful to see police celebrating arrests of illegal miners when the trade could be legitimised to capitalise on taxes and minimise resultant contact crimes.

“There are mine dumps that have become too expensive for the mining companies to exploit. These attract zama-zamas who are not afraid to go deep into the shafts and retrieve minerals,
albeit illegally.

“The government needs to decriminilise this type of mining and issue these brave men with small-scale mining licenses to avoid us sending untaxed millions outside the borders of the country while exhausting police resources.

“With licenses [being issued], crime will be reduced,” said Mashego.

Follow @SundayWorldZA on Twitter and @sundayworldza on Instagram, or like our Facebook Page, Sunday World, by clicking here for the latest breaking news in South Africa. To Subscribe to Sunday World, click here

Latest News