Operation Vala Umgodi continues to record successes against illegal miners

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The South African Police Service (SAPS), supported by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and the Department of Home Affairs, continue to record successes against zama zamas through Operation Vala Umgodi.

The SAPS on Thursday said a number of suspects were apprehended in Limpopo last weekend after committing various offenses, ranging from mining of precious minerals without mining rights to possession of prohibited firearms, unlawful possession of ammunition, possession of illicit drugs, theft of firearms and contravention of the Immigration Act. Mining equipment was confiscated, including shovels, spades, iron bars, and bags full of precious metals and a pocket scale.

Several people were arrested for possession of illicit drugs, including crystal meth, rock, and cocaine, while two men were apprehended for being in possession of a 9 mm pistol and ammunition. Additionally, 32 foreign nationals were arrested in separate locations within the five districts including the Beitbridge Port of Entry.

In another incident, two suspects were arrested for allegedly attempting to smuggle commercial explosives from Zimbabwe into the South Africa. The pair, aged 32 and 42, were arrested in the early hours of Thursday morning as they entered South Africa at the Beitbridge Border Post.

Police spokesperson Colonel Malesela Ledwaba said the suspects’ Toyota Quantum with a trailer was stopped and searched. “Police discovered commercial explosives concealed inside the bags. Members of the Musina Explosive Unit attended the scene and 124 blasting cartridges, and at least 109 safety fuses were confiscated.”

The suspects were expected to appear before Musina Magistrate’s Court on Friday on a charge of smuggling and possession of explosives.

On Monday, the SAPS reported that a joint operational multi-disciplinary force comprising of the SAPS Tactical Response Team, National Intervention Unit, Public Order Police, Organised Crime Investigation, K9 Unit, Border Police Team along with the SANDF as well as the Department of Home Affairs recovered five tipper trucks and millions of rands worth of illicit cigarettes through Operation Vala Umgodi.

In the early hours of 27 May, Vala Umgodi teams apprehended five tipper trucks and a Toyota Hilux double cab along the R555 road outside Burgersfort loaded with chrome suspected of being stolen. Preliminary investigations revealed that the chrome was taken from illegal mining sites.

Police arrested the five drivers of the trucks for possession of suspected stolen precious minerals while the sixth suspect fled the scene on foot.

In addition, two male foreign nationals, aged 26 and 44, were nabbed while digging precious minerals underground at Mulati village outside Tzaneen in Mopani District on Sunday 26 May, at illegal mining sites. They are facing charges of illegal mining and contravention of the Immigration Act.

In a separate incident, the Border Police Team on 27 May, recovered millions of rands worth of illicit cigarettes at Musina in Vhembe District near the Beitbridge Port of Entry. The cigarettes were being transported in a white Toyota Quantum. It is reported that the driver of the Quantum minibus, after realizing that he was cornered by the police, jumped out of the vehicle and fled the scene on foot, evading the arrest. Police counted 109 boxes of illicit cigarettes with an estimated street value of R2.2 million.

More recently, on 31 May the SAPS said Vala Umgodi operations in Limpopo on Thursday saw a Hino tipper truck seized after it was spotted carrying chrome, and the driver and crew arrested. In addition, about twenty foreign nationals were arrested in separate locations, including Beitbridge Port of Entry, for contravention of the immigration act.