Farmer in Polokwane fears for his life after illegal miners invade his property

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A farmer from Polokwane in Limpopo says he fears for his life after his farm was invaded by illegal miners also known as zama zamas.

Gideon Thobakgale says he has been threatened by the illegal miners who have started digging for gold on his farm. He says since the police started clamping down on illegal mining in Gauteng, the heavily armed zama zamas have descended on his farm.

Thobakgale, who is a livestock farmer in Polokwane, says his life is in danger due to the mushrooming of illegal mining on his farm. He says police are not assisting him. Thobakgale says the illegal miners are also stealing his livestock.

“I’m not afraid of them but I’m afraid of my life. I’m asking myself if I’m safe because those people took one of their own, throw him on the street. So who am I if I start fighting with them now? I won’t win because the police are not assisting me with anything. So I’m on my own,” says Thobakgale.

One of the illegal miners says a 30-year-old zama zama died on the farm on Sunday after the earth caved in on him. He says they dug his body out of the mine and left him on the side of the main road for police to find.

“We carried him out and brought him to the road so that the police would get him and we called the police and the police got him and took him to the right place. Immediately, we called the family and told them, that there is a funeral here,” a zama zama says.

The zama zamas say they only resorted to illegal mining to take care of their families back home in Lesotho and they do not get involved in any criminality.

“We are not fighting or stealing from anyone. We do this because we are unemployed. It’s not safe here but because we are suffering, we go in to make a living. It’s not all Basotho people who are involved in criminal activities. We know this is illegal but we have no choice because we are unemployed,” another zama zama explains.

Hawks spokesperson in Limpopo Matimba Maluleke says they have plans to crack down on illegal mining in the province.

“Illegal mining activities are still prevalent in some parts of the province. However, as the directorate for priority crime investigation, we are making sure that we conduct disruptive operations just to try and curb the scourge of illegal mining in the province. And we’ve arrested a number of suspected illegal miners in the province and we are still going to continue with our disruptive operations,” says Maluleke.

The zama zamas says the high unemployment levels in South Africa and neighbouring countries is contributing towards illegal mining.