Hawks arrest 170 plus in connection with illegal mining

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The second quarter of the current financial year and ahead of soldiers being roped in, saw the Hawks (DPCI – Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation) effect 172 arrests connected to illegal mining.

Soldiers were added to government efforts to curb and – hopefully end – illegal mining with a Presidential “employment” of 3 300 made public early in November. The Presidency announcement indicated the deployment of soldiers to assist police in “an intensified anti-criminality operation against illegal mining” across all nine provinces was effective as from 28 October until 28 April next year.

One of the new-look SA Army brigades – the light modern, given the appellation 47 by SA National Defence Force (SANDF) communication officers – is tasked for the six-month deployment.

The new landward force structure was, as far as is known, made public by SA Army Chief, Lieutenant General Lawrence Mbatha, during the just ended division level exercise Vuk’uhlome at the Combat Training Centre (CTC) in the Northern Cape province. It comprises 43 SA Brigade, 46 SA Brigade, 47 Light Modern Brigade, 48 Airborne Modern Brigade and the Army Reserve Modern Brigade.

At the time of publishing neither the SANDF Directorate Corporate Communication (DCC) nor its sister entity in the SA Army had made any details of the deployment public.

Confirmation of the illegal mining arrests was divulged by Lieutenant General Godfrey Lebeya, Hawks National Head, in a Pretoria briefing earlier this week. He gave details of two cases which saw 35 arrests.

Stilfontein in the North West Province saw the Hawks’ Serious Organised Crime Investigation assisted by the Hawks’ Tactical Operations Management Section (TOMS), LCRC, Explosives Unit, Illegal Mining Task Team, NIU, ER24, Harmony Gold mine and Bidvest Protea Coin securities conduct “a disruptive operation” at Scott Shaft on 18 August. Thirty arrests were made with two charged with illegal possession of firearms and ammunition and two others charged with possession of unwrought gold to the value of about R100 000.

Lebeya’s second example was from Northam in the Limpopo Province in another “disruptive operation” at Zwartkop Zone 1 in August last year, which ended with five arrests. The Polokwane-based Hawks’ Serious Organised Crime Investigation with support from the National Intervention Unit (NIU), Tactical Response Team (TRT), Local Criminal Record Centre (LCRC), Illegal Mining Task Team and the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) stopped illegal chrome transport. An excavator, horse truck tractor with double trailers loaded with chrome, a tipper truck and two motor vehicles all told valued at over R5 million were confiscated.

One suspect was released on bail and re-arrested after being linked to another illegal mining case. He appeared in the Thabazimbi Magistrates’ Court this past July and was sentenced to a R80 000 fine or two years behind bars.

Giving an update on the Hawks’ second quarter of 2023/24 financial year report, Lebeya said at least 801 suspects were arrested nationally.

Lebeya said he is happy with the conviction rate of suspects. He said 244 accused persons, consisting of 234 natural persons and 10 juristic persons, were convicted and sentenced.

“The top five national priority offences contributed a high number of arrests of 173 suspects for fraud, 172 for precious metals and diamonds, 52 for narcotics, 48 for cash-in-transit robberies (CIT) and 37 for corruption.”

During these arrests, the DPCI seized various exhibits including precious metals and diamonds, endangered species, vehicles, cash, firearms, ammunition, counterfeit goods, explosives and electronic devices worth R92 407 269.

“In terms of crime categories relating to convictions, out of the 244 convictions, fraud contributed the highest number of 75, which is made of 62 South Africans, six foreign nationals and seven companies.

“The second is precious metals and diamonds with a total number of 51 accused persons. In terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act 121 of 1998 (POCA), a total number of 30 accused persons and two companies were convicted for a pattern of racketeering activity and money laundering.

“In terms of nationalities relating to conviction and sentences, 193 are South Africans, while 84 are foreign nationals,” Lebeya said.

The foreign nationals consisted of 48 Zimbabweans, seven Chinese, seven Mozambicans, four Nigerians, three Tanzanians, three Basotho, three Pakistanis, three Ethiopians, two Bangladeshis, two Zambians, one Canadian and one Ghanaian.

Police killings

Lebeya said attacks on police officials are an attack on the State and that the death of one police official is one too many.

He said 35 police officials were murdered in the second quarter, and 37 arrests were made, of which 10 are for older cases.

“Furthermore, of the 10 who have been sentenced, five accused persons were sentenced to share 10 life imprisonments and a combined 391 years imprisonment.”

Kidnappings, drugs and CITs

With regard to kidnappings, a total number of 40 suspects were arrested on kidnapping related charges and 11 victims were rescued by a multidisciplinary kidnapping task team.

Lebeya said drugs, including clandestine laboratories valued at R11 086 284, were seized, with total number of 52 suspects arrested, of which 30 are South African nationals and 22 are foreign nationals.

Meanwhile, cash-in transit heists continue to be a thorn in the economy of the country and the DPCI, in collaboration with private organisations, continues to strengthen the fight against these crimes.

“For this quarter, 48 arrests were effected and two convictions secured,” he said.