The community of Kagiso, west of Johannesburg, is calling on the government to close the abandoned mine shaft that they claim is fueling illegal mining operations.
Some of the residents say they are forced to sleep under beds for fear of being victimised by the illegal miners whom they accuse of involvement in crimes such as rape, murder and robberies.
The Kagiso community took to the streets on Thursday in protest against illegal mining in the area.
Video: Mogale City Mayor Tyrone Gray encourages peaceful protests
Residents moved from house to house where illegal miners lived and demolished their shacks before confiscating some of the equipment and tools, they used in their illegal mining operations.
Community leader Skeelo Moswang says, “As you can see, we have shut down their shaft – this is where they process gold – they only rented this place to refine gold.”
Residents descended on the house in Kagiso extension 8, where the zama zamas were renting and started dismantling the structures.
Large bathtubs filled with soiled water, and bags containing refined soil bore testimony to the illegal mining operation they embarked upon. The owner of the house, who prefers to remain anonymous says she has been trying to chase them away, but they refused after realising that what they are doing is unlawful.
“I asked them why this thing you are doing is attracting so many police officers. They told me they work with the police. I had hope when I saw police cars coming at night thinking they will take them away, but they did not – they only took the money.”
Residents of Soul City informal settlement – also in Kagiso – apprehended 19 illegal miners near the Tudor shaft. They were stripped naked and whipped – before they were rescued by the police.
Among the community members of Soul City is Sbongile Maishe – who lost her 17-year-old daughter in 2019 allegedly at the hands of illegal miners. She says her daughter was kidnapped and her body found dumped near a manhole closer to Tudor shaft a week later. She had been gang raped and murdered. Up until today, no one has been arrested for her murder.
“Our local police station had promised that Interpol will go to Lesotho to arrest the suspects and bring them back into South Africa so that the case can resume. Since 2019 they have been saying they will go to Lesotho. I want justice and I won’t rest until I get justice for my child.”
‘Failed justice system’
The community of Soul City says the Justice system in South Africa has failed them hence they’ve decided to take it upon themselves to hunt down the illegal miners and shut their operations.
Residents have also called on the government to deploy soldiers to assist in clamping down on illegal mining operations.
“The permanent solution is that a state of emergency must be declared and soldiers deployed. The police have no manpower and corruption is too much.”
About 25 illegal foreign nationals had been arrested by Thursday night. One person also died. Gauteng deputy police commissioner Tommy Mthombeni says it is not true that they have failed the community.
“You know the numbers in terms of the people whom we have arrested. And surely these people are arrested because of the efforts of the police. One would understand that these people would not drive themselves to the police station. Even today people who are arrested are through the efforts of the police in collaboration with the community.”
Police say they will continue to monitor the area.