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By Faizel Patel

Senior Digital Journalist

WATCH: ‘There are police forces in Riverlea’ – Cele hits back

Riverlea was described as a “warzone” after a weekend of gun battles and protests over illegal mining and zama zamas.

Police minister Bheki Cele has responded to claims no police were visibility in Riverlea after running battles between rival zama zama gangs and protests in the area.

During a visit on Monday afternoon, Cele, accompanied by the police’s top brass, promised to deploy specialised units. However, residents questioned this.

Police visibility

The minister said action has been taken.

“There was lots of issues of not seeing the forces on the ground. Indeed, we did say we’ll be escalating there. There were forces yesterday, yes not enough.

“But if you go there today, we’ve got 56 forces. As we speak more than 20 zama zamas have been arrested and operations are going on there and we are quite satisfied people are doing well,” Cele said during the launch of Operation Shanela in Cape Town.

The minister sentiments were echoed by police spokesperson Brigadier Brenda Muradili to The Citizen.

“Even like yesterday, when eNCA was saying there’s no deployment, where they were standing, there were no members visible. But does not necessarily mean the whole Riverlea does not have police presence.

Special operation

“The police went to an area where there is no houses, where these zama zamas actually dig the sand. So, the fact they did not see officers does necessarily mean police were not in the area

“When police come here, they are not coming here to patrol street by street. They are here for a specific reason, to combat illegal mining. Illegal mining is not in the street,” Muradili said.

Watch police minister Bheki Cele saying there was police visibility in Riverlea


The arrests of the zama zamas comes just a few days after a weekend of gun battles that left Riverlea a “warzone.”

Muradili said the national deployment started on Tuesday after Cele’s visit to the Riverlea.

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

“These operations were directed by the minister after five bodies of alleged illegal miners were found after they had an altercation with rival illegal miners.”

Equipment seized

Muridili said police continued with operations in the Zamimpilo Informal Settlement on Wednesday morning.

“All the specialised operations moved in to this informal settlement and going to all those shacks used as processing centres by the zama zamas.

“Yesterday, there was five undocumented persons believed to be linked to illegal mining were arrested. This morning its 15,” Muradili said.

Muradili said police also seized mining equipment including gas bottles and gold-bearing dust.

ALSO READ: WATCH: ‘There was nothing police could do’- Riverlea resident details the night zama zamas came guns blazing

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