R8 million plus setback for illegal miners

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A two-month haul worth in excess of R8 million in mining and allied equipment, diamonds, ore, explosives and weapons is the tally for the national task team, including the SA Army Light Modern Brigade, in the ongoing national effort to rein in illegal mining.

Lieutenant Randolph Mokhachane reports the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) component of the joint task force created under the Operation Prosper banner, along with the SA Police Service (SAPS) and other relevant government departments and entities, were active nationally in multi-disciplinary operations against illegal miners, popularly known as zama zamas.

February and March saw seizure of mining explosives, different calibre weapons and ammunition; drugs including cat, Mandrax, crystal meth, tik, nyaope and dagga; “diamond and gold bearing materials”; a “chrome stockpile”; prescribed medication; TLBs (tractor loader backhoes), low beds, trucks, trailers, pick-ups (presumably “bakkies” and sedans); stolen vehicles; mining equipment such as cutting torches, gas bottles, phendukas, generators, and jackhammers; cash – apparently for drugs and alcohol; mobile phones; protective clothing; measuring scales as well as diamonds.

Among the 43 weapons taken from illegal miners are AK-47s, R4s, R5s, various calibre pistols and revolvers and what is called “hunting shotguns”.

On arrests, soldiers were involved in apprehending 217 for contravening mining rights (illegal mining), five for contraventions of the Precious Metal Act and a further 61 in connection with illegal possession of firearms; dealing in drugs and dagga; contravening the Liquor Act and possession of stolen vehicles as well as illegally dealing in diamonds.

The anti-illegal mining task force is tasked to complete its current round of operations by the end of this month (April). President Cyril Ramaphosa authorised the “employment” of SA Army personnel in terms of Operation Prosper in December at a cost of R500 million as per a Presidential advisory.