16 'gold dealers' on 133 raps
SIXTEEN people, among them two women, appeared briefly in the Bloemfontein High Court yesterday on a string of charges that include dealing in and the illegal processing of gold.
Two other suspects - a couple - did not show up. Judge JP Daffue told the accused that the trial could not be heard because Sifelane Msimango had died in an accident in Bothaville on Monday night.
His wife Bulelwa Somhlahlo, 39, could also not attend as she was mourning her husband's death.
Judge Daffue ordered that Msimango and Somhlahlo's bail would be temporarily forfeited and later issued a temporary warrant of arrest until next week when the 16 suspects are expected to appear in court.
The reasons why the bail should not be forfeited by the state and why the suspects should not be re-arrested would be heard next week. The investigating team must hand over passports of Msimango's three brothers - Sibusiso, 34, Rise, 31 and MacDonald, 28 - in order to attend their brother's funeral in Zimbabwe.
The suspects are facing 133 charges that include theft of gold, possession of gold, money laundering and racketeering.
The Msimango brothers are alleged to be ringleaders and key players in the offence and they had used their Tabana Trust Fund during the commission of the offences.
It is alleged that the men recruited the other suspects. Among the suspects are Christian Lunga, 54, a security guard at Harmony Gold Mine in Welkom and Clement Nkhi, 35, an employee at the mine.
The syndicate allegedly operated between 1999 and 2008 when they were arrested.
They operated in Johannesburg, Springs, Vanderbijlpark and Vereeniging in Gauteng, Klerksdorp, Orkney and Potchefstroom in North West, and in Kroonstad, Virginia, Bloemfontein, Wesselsbron, Welkom, Ventersburg and Hennenman in Free State.
Lunga, Nkhi, Somhlahlo, Sylvester Mahamo, 26, Sicelosenkosi Mthimkulu, 25, Meshack Sithole, 28, Adoons Knight Bita, 30, Tshediso Ramabele, 33, Charles and Lucky Sithole aged 25 and 33 respectively, Seatile Khabe, 26, and Moroesi Msimango, 30, were recruited to either obtain unprocessed gold, racketeering, laundering. Some of the Msimango brothers' assets were registered in their names.
Bita, Mahamo and Mthimkulu were remanded in custody while the other suspects' bail was extended.
The suspects are expected to appear again in court on Monday.
Last week Sowetan published reports highlighting the lives of illegal miners, otherwise known as zama zamas, in Welkom.
Emergency personnel rescued 22 illegal miners who were trapped underground in a disused mine in Welkom and an undisclosed number of other illegal miners were reported to have died underground. - email@example.com