Police deployment to fight zama zamas in Riverlea bears fruit

Seventy-nine people have been arrested since an entourage of police units was dispatched to Riverlea in Johannesburg.

The deployment followed a protest by members of the community against illegal mining activities in the area.

Hell broke loose at the weekend when warring factions of illegal miners turned the area into a war zone, resulting in the deaths of five people.

The unidentified men’s bodies were found dumped next to the main road in the area on Sunday morning.

Police spokesperson Brigadier Brenda Muridili said on Thursday that the police operations in the area are bearing positive results.

“Sixty-nine [of the 79] suspects are undocumented foreign nationals,” said Muridili.

“One person [was arrested] for possession of an unlicensed firearm and ammunition, the other one for possession of ammunition, five for possession of suspected stolen property, while three [were nabbed] for common assault.”

During the raid, she said, police also seized unlicensed firearms and ammunition, explosives, gas cylinders, gold-bearing sand, and alcohol from an illegal shebeen.

Muridili said the operations will continue until Riverlea’s illegal mining activities have been stabilised.

On Monday, Police Minister Bheki Cele visited Riverlea and promised the community that external forces would be brought in to deal with the longstanding issue of zama zamas.

On Wednesday, the Gauteng provincial legislature’s portfolio committee on community safety called for the deployment of soldiers to end the scourge of illegal mining in the province.

The committee said it would write a letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa and Gauteng premier Panyaza Lesufi to consider its call.

“The committee views illegal mining as a form of economic sabotage beyond just tax evasion, but also illicit financial flows with a devastatingly negative effect on the already struggling South African economy.

“It is also critical to establish the alleged involvement of mining companies in illegal mining and their contribution to bringing an end to this,” said the committee.

In a separate development, Muridili said the police in Fochville in West Rand led a takedown operation which resulted in the arrest of Basotho foreign nationals.

“Police in the West Rand, on the other hand, have through an intelligence led a takedown and managed to arrest four Basotho nationals for possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition,” she said.

“During the arrest, the police seized an AK-47 rifle, four handguns and an assortment of ammunition.”


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