Sixty-eight male suspects aged between 19 and 54 were arrested in connection with illegal mining activities. Among them, two were charged for human trafficking, two others were charged for the possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition and eight were nabbed for alleged kidnapping.
According to a provincial police spokesperson, Colonel Donald Mdhluli, these arrests are the result of Operation Shanela, which was carried out at Sabie on Saturday September 16. All arrested suspects are facing charges of contravention of the Immigration Act of South Africa.
“An operation was carried out after a victim from Lesotho came to the Sabie Police Station in August to report a case of kidnapping. A team co-ordinated and executed a sting operation in the early hours of Saturday,” Mdhluli said.
“When the police arrived at the site, they managed to arrest the alleged illegal miners, also known as zama-zamas. Two firearms with ammunition were found among the suspects.
“The members also arrested eight who are suspected to have been behind the kidnapping of the Lesotho national. In fact, preliminary investigation by the police revealed that two of the suspects are allegedly involved in some dodgy dealings of trafficking people from Lesotho and using them for illegal mining in the Sabie area.”
Mdhluli said these two are facing charges of human trafficking, for now. More charges could possibly be added against them as the investigation continues. “The investigators are adamant that these men might have been involved in other criminal activities, however, the probe is under way. Other stakeholders are positively assisting to ensure that the law takes its course,” he said.
The confiscated firearms will undergo ballistic testing to determine whether they were previously used in the commission of crime elsewhere.
The suspects are expected to appear in the Sabie Magistrate’s Court tomorrow, Monday September 18, facing the said charges.