Zama zama equipment worth millions confiscated by SANDF soldiers

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SA Army personnel currently serving with the Light Modern Brigade (LMB) as part of a national initiative to curb illegal mining activity are proving to be active and able, racking up confiscations north of R126 million in an eleven-week period.

The list of confiscated items between 23 December and 29 February as reported by an SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Joint Operations Division communication officer range from mining equipment, including tipper trucks and tractor-loader-backhoes (TLBs) to firearms such as pistols, revolvers, assault (AK-47) and hunting rifles as well as illicit cigarettes; uncut diamonds; “gold-bearing material” and even 88 kg of presumably West Coast lobster.

The military component of the national initiative sees soldiers supporting police during raids and what SA Police Service (SAPS) communication officers call “disruptive operations” across South Africa’s nine provinces.

SANDF Commander-in-Chief President Cyril Ramaphosa approved the employment of just on four thousand military personnel, mostly soldiers and those supporting them by way of equipment, transport, ammunition and rations among others late in December. The four-month long deployment, as part of the standing Operation Prosper to assist with internal safety and security, has an end date of 28 April and comes in costing in the region of R500 million as per the Presidential advisory.

Soldiers have, according to Lieutenant Randolph Mokhachane, also been involved with over four thousand five hundred arrests between 23 December and 29 February. Undocumented persons, also known illegal immigrants, from Eswatini, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Somalia and Zimbabwe as well as South Africans were arrested in connection will illegal mining and illegal residency.

Mokhachane reports the multi-disciplinary nationwide operation is making it “harder” for illegal miners. He points out during questioning of arrested suspects it came to light the illegal miners work for foreign individuals. “They pay the miners and collect money from the digger through businesses at illegal mining sited selling food, beverages including alcohol and soft drinks, as well as dagga, drugs and allegedly prostitution activities.”

Proof of the level of danger involved in illegal mining comes with the discovery of two bodies at separate sites during the December/February period.