Zama zama: the bodies pile up

Police arrest illegal miners. File Picture: Alaister Russell

Police arrest illegal miners. File Picture: Alaister Russell

About 35 suspected illegal miners have been killed in Grootvlei near Springs on the East Rand since the beginning of the year, police spokesperson Captain Tsekiso Mofokeng said yesterday.

On Monday, the bodies of five people were found with bullet wounds after what is believed to have been a turf war between two groups of illegal miners in the area.

Earlier this month police reported that 15 illegal miners in the Grootvlei area had been killed in alleged gang fights in a short period of time.

Mofokeng said all the victims were shot dead with different calibre firearms. Regarding the five bodies found on Monday, police said: “From what we got from the community members, there are two groups of people fighting over the territory.

Overnight they were firing shots, attacking each other,” said Mofokeng. “We suspect these groups
are dealing in illegal mining.”

Police and other law enforcement agencies have been deployed to the area to prevent clashes between illegal mining groups.

In August, an illegal miner was fatally shot and another wounded in a shoot-out between police and miners. The police had responded to a suspected shoot-out between two zama zama groups at an old mine shaft near Daveyton.
Last week, as part of Operation Fiela, police arrested 28 illegal immigrants on the East Rand and
also seized weapons and equipment allegedly used for illegal mining.

Police spokesperson Lungelo Dlamini said the operation was conducted in several informal settlements.

The mining equipment seized included three generators, 17 penduka bins used for mining, nine
steel pots, 11 steel plates, 11 buckets containing gold bearing ore, two bowls containing gold dust,
hammers, gas bottles, garden spades and dangerous weapons.

In a similar raid the week before, police seized illegal firearms including an R-1 rifle and two
9mm pistols. “These firearms are suspected to have been used to kill rival gangs and in attacks
on law enforcement agencies.”


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