Limpopo zama zamas targeted by police and soldiers

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Limpopo provincial capital Polokwane and surrounds yielded mining equipment, illicit cigarettes and drugs as well as arrests for offences including assault, extortion and kidnapping during a joint military/police operation.

The Friday (9 February) operation is yet another in a continuous string nationally where soldiers from the SA Army Light Modern Brigade (LMB) boost police efforts to curb illegal mining.

Mining equipment confiscated during the “disruptive operation” in South Africa’s northernmost province included two tipper trucks, a digging bar and assorted picks and shovels. A SA Police Service (SAPS) statement has it “illegal miners were caught digging different types of precious metals and sand without mining permits and mining rights” without providing numbers or nationalities of those arrested.

“Thousands of Rand worth of illicit cigarettes and dagga, as well as illicit drugs, was seized by police.”

Around 3 800 SA National Defence Force (SANDF) personnel, mostly soldiers, have been deployed with police since December to rein in illegal miners nationally. The deployment is set to finish on 28 April with a cost tag in the R500 million region.

In December, ten days of national multi-disciplinary operations saw mining equipment, ore, diamonds and weapons valued at over R24 million confiscated as far apart as Kimberley in the Northern Cape and Burgersfort in Limpopo. The chrome ore stockpile in Limpopo is valued at R3.5 million.

The SANDF deployment to combat illegal mining has resulted in what Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise termed “increased and demonstrable success” for Cabinet’s Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) cluster.

She was replying to a question asked by Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) public representative Khanya Ceza who wanted the minister’s take on the success or otherwise of using soldiers and other government departments to rein in zama zama operations nationally.

Modise’s response has it the SANDF elements and other JCPS departments and stakeholders are force multipliers in the anti-illegal mining operation currently set to run to end April. “So far, the deployment of the SANDF under Operation Prosper has resulted in increased and demonstrable success for the security cluster,” she told her questioner, adding the national defence force is not mandated to investigate criminal syndicates and is not involved in investigating them as it is the role of other departments and agencies to do so.