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Zamas brought to book

Over a two-year period, a total of 3 962 illegal miners have been arrested in joint operations conducted by the South African Police Service (SAPS), mine security and the Department of Home Affairs in the Welkom Police Cluster.

They have all appeared in the Welkom Magistrate’s Court and faced sentences ranging from direct imprisonment to sentences with the option of heavy fines.

In all of the cases, the criminals were immediately deported after serving their time or paying their fines.

“Most of the illegal miners arrested during the period of March 2017 to June 2019 were sentenced to between six months and two years in jail, with the option of heavy fines. The fines ranged from R6 000 to R20 000,” says Capt. Stephen Thakeng, police spokesperson.

“The sentences were imposed for crimes like trespassing and the attempted theft of gold-bearing material. All of these criminals originated from Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Lesotho.”

Their crimes also included murder and rape, possession of gold-bearing material, house robberies, possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition, burglaries, armed robberies and the theft of motor vehicles.

According to SAPS records, 206 illegal miners (zama-zamas) died underground during this period.

Large quantities of food, meant for illegal miners who lived underground, were also seized during the two years.

The seized foodstuff included fast food, biltong, beer, bread and instant porridge.

The specialised units involved in bringing these criminals to book include the Welkom K9 Unit, Crime Intelligence, the Vehicle Theft Investigation Unit, the investigative team and other role players.

“They are all applauded for their thorough investigation and their role in ensuring that these criminals are removed from our station precinct,” says Thakeng.

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