Operation Vala Umgodi nets 18 chrome-laden trucks in Limpopo

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With the end of April – and end of the SA Army Light Modern Brigade (LMB) deployment – approaching, the SA Police Service (SAPS)-headed disruptive operations to curb illegal mining continue apace.

From Limpopo, SAPS communication officers report confiscation of no less than 18 side tipper trucks in one operation in the Sekhukhune policing district of the province.

What is termed “a high density, disruptive Operation Vala Umgodi (plug the hole)” tasking on Wednesday (10 April) resulted in confiscation of the 18 tipper trucks, all laden with chrome ore, as well as the arrest of 18 suspects. The bust took place on the R55 near Steelpoort.

The tasking was intelligence driven and those arrested face charges in connection with unlawful possession of precious minerals and the appropriate road traffic laws and regulations regarding illegal transport.

In the aftermath of the success, police boosted by soldiers and elements of the SAPS National Intervention Unity, Tactical Response and Sekhukhune task teams are actively following up on what is believed to be a syndicate running illegal mining activities in South Africa’ northernmost province.

On Thursday 11 April, the SAPS said 11 suspects, including an official working for the Department of Correctional Services, were arrested for their alleged involvement in illegal mining activities. The suspects were cornered at a farm in Barberton outside Nelspruit.

An intelligence driven operation was conducted by Police members, attached to Operation Vala Umgodi in Mpumalanga, the SAPS said, resulting in the 11 suspects being arrested and mining equipment recovered.

Multiple other successes have been recorded recently during Vala Umgodi operations – for example, 18 suspected illegal miners were arrested in Bekkersdal and Westonaria on 8 April and mining equipment seized, and last week police patrols in areas such as Welkom, Viljoenskroon, Thabong, Vierfontein, Bothaville, Wesselsbron, Virginia and Allanridge and stop and search activities led to the arrest of 82 suspects for possession of suspected stolen goods, illegal mining, possession of illicit cigarettes, trespassing, possession of gold bearing material and equipment used in illicit mining. Other suspects were found in possession of drugs and dangerous weapons.

Police Minister Bheki Cele last weekend said under operation Vala Umgodi, 3 298 illegal miners have been arrested.

Apart from illegal mining, Vala Umgodi also deals with other crimes, including transnational ones, and has recovered drugs and illicit cigarettes, amongst others. Police and soldiers on 5 April arrested four people in Pampierstad for crystal meth and mandrax possession as well as weapons and money.

Last weekend, police in Limpopo operating under Operation Vala Umgodi seized R116 000 worth of illicit cigarettes outside Musina, and a raft suspected to have been used to smuggle counterfeit and illicit goods across the border from Zimbabwe. The boat was destroyed by fire.