Illegal miners have left the cash strapped Matjhabeng municipality in Welkom in the Free State with R800 million worth of damages in its sewer network.
Mayor Nkosinjani Speelman says the illegal miners, known as Zama Zamas, use sewer water to separate gold from gold bearing rocks. In order to get the water, they are destructing the sewerage system in Thabong.
The repair work is done on a regular basis with municipal trucks with special equipment opening the blocked sewerage system. Illegal miners are blocking the manhole with sand bags so that they can redirect sewage water to their operations in order to process gold dust.
“Sometimes they tighten our security. They exchange fire to fire. They were fighting one station exchanging fire to fire. It’s not good they are killing each other. Remember they are residents from Lesotho. They threaten society. If I had powers I would say go underground take what you want. Please don’t disturb society . Don’t disturb our infrastructure,” said Speelman.
The community has also been living in fear as Zama Zamas have been engaging in gun battles in their quest for the most gold.
” If you hear gun shots and you go out to check your neighbour. They tell you if you don’t have gold go back inside your house. When they get inside your house they ask where is your husband, they want gold and if you say you don’t have it, they beat you up. Two weeks back we heard gun shots and a man was killed inside his own house,” said one concerned resident.
The municipality has requested intervention from the provincial government and the national police ministry in dealing with the situation.