Calls have been mounting during a National Assembly debate in the Good Hope Chamber in Parliament, to intensify the fight against illegal mining in South Africa.
Some Parliamentarians also linked illegal mining to illegal immigration caused by porous borders. It has been revealed that the majority of those arrested for illegal mining activities are undocumented foreign Nationals.
The debate was proposed by ANC MP Mikateko Mahlaule with the theme: “Persistent illegal mining activities and concomitant crimes.”
When he opened the debate, Mahlaule made a call that all the role players should be arrested for their involvement in illegal mining.
Mahlaule says, “The more illegal mining succeeds, the more the long-term sustainability of the industry and its secondary industries become less economically viable. Hence it is important for the law enforcement agencies to arrest and prosecute role players in illegal mining, including police officers, mining security personnel and regulatory officials that shake down illegal miners for bribes and confiscate their mineral holdings and subsequently sell them directly to transnational criminal syndicates.”
Voices of different political parties in the National Assembly
The National Assembly heard how illegal mining is costing South African gold mining companies tens of billions of rands every year as the DA’s James Lorimer elaborated.
Lorimer adds that, “Illegal mining costs gold mining companies alone up to R20-billion a year, not to mention the losses in the diamond, chrome, and coal sector and to that of theft of copper and other metals and the destruction of infrastructure and viable mining becomes more and more difficult. Mine crime is a big business. The amount of money involved means criminals can get big payoffs, sustain officials, mine employees, magistrates, prosecutors, and policemen to make it happen. It’s a magnet for gangs which the police say are better armed than they are.”
ACDP says the gang rape of eight women at the Krugersdorp mine dump in July has brought the dark side of illegal mining in South Africa to the fore. ACDP MP Wayne Thring also reflected on the findings by the Institute of Security Studies which estimated that 30 000 illegal miners produce gold worth R40-billion every year.
“That’s beside the other precious minerals. These raw products are usually sold to the UAE and Switzerland, This therefore makes illegal mining a big profit-making business. The rape of eight women at a mine dump in West Village, Krugersdorp this July and the subsequent arrest of some 65 illegal miners or Zama Zamas on charges of rape, possession of explosive and unlicensed firearms as well as contravening the immigration act brought to the fore the stark reality and the hideous dark side of illegal mining in South Africa, said Thring.
ATM Leader Vuyo Zungula says illegal mining is made possible by porous borders.
Zungula says, “The reality is that the majority of illegal miners are not South African. The guns seized are not registered in South Africa, and the explosives used in illegal mining are smuggled from neighbouring countries. Therefore, illegal mining and other crimes are enabled by porous borders and the poor management of immigration in South Africa. Illegal mining, gun, drug and human trafficking, cash-in transit heists are to a large extent as a result of illegal immigration and the failures of government to manage immigration. The government must be a caring government and listen to the cries of the people and deal with the immigration crisis. The government must have empathy for the people of South Africa and not ignore their suffering and be overly concerned about the suffering of other countries. The government must declare illegal immigration a crisis and take the necessary steps to correct the problem.”
The PAC Leader Mzwanele Nyontsho says mine dumps have now become dangerous sites for communities. He has called on government to intervene.
“The PAC calls for the governing party to look into the crisis of Zama Zamas. The sites that we now call mine dumps are dangerous as such have had dire impact in communities surrounding them. The case in point, we saw in July how eight young women were raped. South Africa is already a rape capital. We further have seen how the illegal miners get stuck underground and die digging for crumbs of our resources. This is too much,” says Nyontsho.
The EFF’s Phiwaba Madokwe blames government for failing to address illegal mining.
Madokwe further adds that, “The reality is chairperson if we were to have an honest conversation about illegal mining in South Africa and we are really honest about addressing it, then we have to frame the conversation correctly and hold the relevant departments accountable. We ought to be discussing the government’s failure to address illegal mining activities and the concomitant crimes it has perpetuated against our people in protection of profits and criminal syndicates.”
The NFP Parliamentary Leader Ahmed Shaik- Emam says collusion between locals residents and foreign nationals in illegal mining activities were brought to the fore.
“An oversight visit by the Portfolio Committee together with the Committee on Energy and Mining found that y- there was a lot of collusion between local residents and foreign nationals. We were also given a briefing by the South African Police Services and members of the community who appear to be held hostage, but what is very important to note chairperson in this illegal mining that is taking place, there are very influential people behind this. We have heard even from mining experts that were there some of the expensive vehicles that we have seen in the area and certainly I think these illegal miners that we find there are just being used by those big influential people, so its big business,” adds Ahmed Shaik- Emam.
The Good Party Chief Whip Brett Herron says South Africa should protect its remaining raw materials as they have been depleted for decades.
Brett says, “Mining has long been the cornerstone of the South African economy with massive profits being made on the back of exploited and oppressed labour. While the formal industry’s contribution to GDP has waned, it remains a critical component of the economy today. With raw materials depleted over the decades in a society marred by unsustainable inequality, it is imperative that we protect our remaining assets and ensure that when they are exploited, the benefits accrue to law abiding citizens rather than the criminals engaged in criminal syndicates.”
IFP MP Mkhulekho says the only way to curb illegal mining is to see the proactive involvement of various stakeholders and society in opposing such activities.
“Incidents such as the one in Emalahleni (in Mpumalanga) where illegal miners operated in the Thungela Resources Khwezela Colliery Komdraai site and triggered a toxic water spill that polluted the water of nearby communities, will become more frequent illegal mining is not proactively opposed by communities, business and government officials,” said Mkhulekho.
When he closed the debate Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe told MPs that evidence shows that the majority of those who are arrested for illegal mining activities are undocumented foreign nationals.
Mantashe says, “Illegal miners are foot soldiers of criminal syndicates and must be dealt with like any other economic sabotage. That’s what it is. Now this is a war on our economy. It is becoming clear that illegal mining is run by syndicates with different linkages of legal migration. South African Police found that those who are apprehended are majority undocumented illegal immigrants. If you unchecked illegal mining would be a threat to the sector.”
Video: National Assembly debates on illegal mining activities