Integrated structure finalised to combat illegal mining: Cele

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Police Minister Bheki Cele says that an integrated Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster has been finalized to combat the long-standing issue of illegal mining. He was speaking following discussions at the ANC NEC on various policy positions. The integrated structure includes the police, defence force, Home Affairs and State Security. Working together, it’s hoped their concerted efforts will help to better deal with illegal miners or so-called Zama-Zamas.

Speaking at an ANC NEC briefing on matters under his purview, Cele says that police have continued to ramp up the arrest of illegal miners. He says the courts seem to be clamping down harder on those accused but adds that there are some challenges.

“In the North West two weeks ago, 18 of these people were found guilty. I think courts are getting a little bit serious and were given six months or R12 000. But usually, they’re warned and let go, which has been the problem, and you could see that in Northern Cape, we arrested 867 of those guys. Unfortunately, there was not enough capacity to deport them because all of them were foreign nationals,” says Cele.

Cele says a now finalized integrated departmental approach should go a long way to better deal with illegal miners and bringing them to book. He says Home Affairs is set to get more resources to be able to deport those illegal miners, who are also in the country illegally. The Minister says authorities aren’t just going for the small guys who do the dirty work in the mines but also for the big fish who make money from the illegal activity.

“For instance, we’ve got nine people that have been arrested, middle Zama Zamas, and those people they 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 a few Lamborginis parked there and then you realize these are big guys. They’re nine these guys. The SIU has already attached 51 of their cars and seven houses that could be worth up to R38 million, so they are going to court as we speak. Six of them are foreign nationals, three of them are South Africans, and so we’re dealing with them,” Cele added.

Many illegal miners are said to come from Lesotho. Cele says South Africa and Lesotho are working together to better manage the issue.

“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 says.

Minister Cele says the illicit nature of Zama Zamas’ activities continues to bring misery to local communities and notes that the provinces particularly affected by the scourge include Gauteng, Free State, North West, Northern Cape, Mpumalanga and Limpopo.