The police say they have located the zama zama ‘headquarters’ near Riverlea. [Picture: NPR]
Gauteng police commissioner Elias Mawela on Sunday announced authorities had discovered the “headquarters” of zama zama operations in Johannesburg. A cache of ammunition was found in a mining shaft near Riverlea, south of the mining city.
“They have discovered what I can call the headquarters of the zama zamas,” he said. Mawela confirmed police had tracked down illegal miners to the shaft, where they discovered rifles, explosives and other ammunition.
More than 20 illegal miners have been arrested so far. Mawela promised a crackdown on illegal activities in the area.
“We are not going to leave this place. We are going to ensure that we sweep each and every corner, minute-by-minute, inches-by-inches, so that we check all these illegal things which may be in this particular tunnel,” he said.
Zama zama crackdown
A turf war between competing illegal mining gangs has tensed the community of Riverlea. Venting pent up anger, they threatened to deal with the illegal miners by themselves if the police could not get a grip on the situation.
“We have to be the ones to respond first to incidents before the police, we work harder than the police, we get injuries more than any other police,” a resident is quoted by Eyewitness News as saying.
Meanwhile, at a ministerial imbizo on illegal mining in the area, police minister Bheki Cele claimed his men and women had arrested 89 “top guys” who bought gold from zama zamas. According to him, they lived in Sandton and Dubai.
Salaamedia asked minister Bheki Cele about the charges on which they were arrested. Watch the minister’s response here.