Zama zamas under the microscope of specialist police task team

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Recent incidents of violence, reportedly including murder and rape, have again put the actions of illegal miners in the national spotlight, so much so the Deputy President was put on the spot during a National Assembly question time.

Additionally, three Parliamentary portfolio committees added their voices to the growing clamour around the so-called Zama zamas (illegal miners) who seemingly were first in action working disused mines in the Free State goldfields more than a decade ago.

Since then they have spread to Gauteng, Limpopo and Mpumalanga with not only their illegal mining but also their bad attitude making headlines.

Answering a question on the Zama zamas in the National Assembly (NA) David Mabuza said illegal mining in addition to a detrimental effect on the economy, also put national security and the environment at risk.

Minster Bheki Cele’s SA Police Service (SAPS) now has a specialised task team to deal with illegal miners. This team, Mabuza told his questioner, will work with an existing multi-disciplinary economic infrastructure task team of various specialised SAPS units, in partnership with private security and business partners. It is working “tirelessly” to prevent and combat economic and critical infrastructure related crimes, including illicit mining, according to the South African number two.

In another development around illegal miners and their activities, one of which is believed to be the killing of eight of their own near Industria in western Johannesburg last week, three portfolio committees met provincial police, Home Affairs and Mineral Resources and Energy representatives in an effort to find answers to illegal mining in Free State.

The committees heard about the depth of illicit mining in Free State and the manner in which it threatens legal mining operations. SAPS informed the committees and assured them there are effective strategies including Operation Knock-Out in place to fight illicit mining. Police told the committees illegal mining syndicates are defend the survival of “their business at all costs”, seemingly the reason for the Industria killings.