Molefe Seeletsa

By Molefe Seeletsa

Digital Journalist

‘In their yards are Lamborghinis’: SA cracking down on ‘big guns’ in illegal mining – Cele

The Police Minister outlined how government is dealing with the issue of zama zamas in SA.

Police Minister Bheki Cele says government is dealing with the issue of zama zamas and illegal mining in South Africa with a multifaceted approach.

The African National Congress (ANC) briefed the media on the third and last day of its national executive committee (NEC) meeting held in Ekurhuleni on Monday regarding the interventions on illegal mining.

Suspects arrested

During the Press Conference, Cele, who is an NEC member, said illegal mining was a problem in South Africa, and categorised zama zamas into five levels, with one being the “dusted” and heavy lifters working in the mines.

The minister confirmed that the police had arrested nine suspects in the zama zama crackdown. He described them as not common people but some kind of a “middle class”.

He said the suspects, six of them foreign nationals and three South Africans, live in fancy houses, with expensive furniture and fancy cars.

“We have moved up to the middle level. We have arrested nine people who are middle class of some form in the zama zamas.

“Those people own beautiful houses… When we visited their houses in Carletonville, all the furniture is imported… it’s Italian furniture in there. In their yards, there are some few Lamborghinis parked and you realise that these are big guns,” Cele said on Monday.

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Cele said the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) had already attached 51 one of the suspects’ cars and seven houses that could be worth R38 million.

“They are in court as we speak,” the minister said.

At the time of the law enforcement’s raid, the suspects were referred to as kingpins of an illegal gold mining syndicate operating in the West Rand.

They will return to court on 30 November for the defence to be furnished with an indictment and a high court date.

Watch the briefing below:

SA working with Lesotho

Furthermore, Cele also indicated that multiple departments were working together to combat illegal mining, where it was prevalent across provinces such as North West and Gauteng.

“We are dealing not only with zama zamas, but also the takeover of mines as we have seen in North West. There is a mine that we have tackled where we have taken trucks and we have arrested the owner.”

Cele revealed that mining equipment worth R16 million was confiscated in Limpopo, while more than 800 illegal miners were arrested in Northern Cape.

“Unfortunately, there was not enough capacity of deporting them because all of them are foreign nationals. Home Affairs will be getting more money because it’s their [duty] to deport those people back to their countries.”

READ MORE: ‘It’s like Bheki Cele was never here, Riverlea is the same’

The minister added that South Africa was engaging with the Lesotho government on how to effectively deal with illegal immigration.

“The head of state and the head of government in Lesotho have spoken on the matter. There are follow-up meetings, the minister of police and of Home Affairs in SA will be meeting with their counterparts in Lesotho to say how do we compare notes of how we keep those people that come here illegally and sending them back where they’re supposed to go. They come into the country without papers and all that, how do we take them back,” Cele said.

In June, at least 31 suspected illegal miners, believed to be from Lesotho, lost their lives at a mine near Welkom in the Free State.

Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe previously accused the Lesotho government of “economic sabotage” and turning a blind eye to the problem.

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