Six alleged ‘zama zamas’ killed in shoot-out, more than 30 arrested in Orkney

Iavan Pijoos Journalist
The three women were shot execution-style. Stock photo.
The three women were shot execution-style. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/ fesenko

More than 30 alleged illegal miners were arrested and six others shot dead in a shoot-out with North West police at a ventilation shaft in Orkney on Wednesday.

Police spokesperson Brig Sabata Mokgwabone said a group of about 300 “zama zamas” attacked and shot at security officers and police when they attempted to stop them from delivering food parcels to illegal miners underground.

“The shooting incidents led to the deaths of illegal miners,” Mokgwabone said.

He said four bodies were found in the vicinity of the shaft, one was discovered about 800m from the crime scene, while the sixth was found in bushes near Kanana location.

Mokgwabone said several food parcels and two firearms were seized.

He said 35 suspects were arrested for attempted murder, causing an explosion, malicious damage to property and conspiracy to commit crime.

“The arrests and shooting incidents came after a decision by the mine management to clamp down on illegal mining activities by closing the ventilation shaft which the zama zamas had been using to enter and exit various shafts.

“The action effectively stopped the supply of food and water to the zama zamas,” he said.

Mokgwabone said some of the illegal miners had allegedly, due to shortages of food and water, used explosives to open a hole and started to exit the shaft on Saturday.

On Sunday, more than 500 had already exited the shaft.

“They were thoroughly processed, including being medically examined for dehydration before being released. Some were treated by paramedics while a few others were taken to hospital.”

The arrested suspects are expected to appear in court soon.

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