More soldiers in place to tackle illegal mining

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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa used last week’s Free State presidential imbizo to make public the deployment of a further 395 soldiers in the province’s goldfields, to boost efforts aimed at curbing illegal mining.

They join 3 300 SA National Defence Force (SANDF) uniformed personnel already supporting police nationally in operations to hopefully stop the so-called zama zamas. In addition to illegal mining at either abandoned or closed mines, the zama zamas have earned a reputation for violence with attacks on residents of suburbs near where they operate. Riverlea in Johannesburg’s south-west is one area where this has happened.

Ramaphosa told people at the district development model (DDM) Presidential imbizo in Welkom “an additional” 395 SANDF personnel will be deployed to assist in dealing with various crimes in the province, including illegal mining.

Police were also on the beneficial end of the presidential largesse with 10 more vehicles coming to two police stations around Welkom “to ensure police visibility and strengthen capacity to combat crime” in the Free State province.

The President gave no detail on the cost and length of the Free State Goldfields deployment.

In November, Ramaphosa told South Africans 3 300 soldiers were going to be deployed to support police in yet another Operation Prosper tasking. Illegal mining was cited as a focus area of the deployment, set to end on 28 April next year.

At the time of the three thousand plus deployment being made public it was a major step up from the 880 previously authorised by Ramaphosa under Operation Prosper. In a letter to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) dated 23 October, Ramaphosa authorised the nearly 900 soldiers be deployed to protect critical infrastructure and combat crime between 18 October and 31 March 2024, at a cost of R110 million. The deployment of the 3 300 soldiers will cost almost R500 million.

According to the South African government there are about 6 100 unused, derelict or abandoned mines across the country.