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REPORT | 'Save us from Zama-zamas'


On Thursday morning, residents organised themselves into groups and raided the open veld next to Lewisham in Kagiso armed with sticks. They grabbed young men believed to be zama zamas and stripped them naked before placing them on the side of the road.

All roads leading to Kagiso, on the West Rand, have been closed by angry residents protesting against illegal mining.

Residents have blocked roads with burning tyres and rocks, forcing police to divert traffic.


The community of Kanana township told Sowetan that illegal mining activities in the area have turned their area into a battle field as rival gangs exchange gunfire all the time.

Speaking to Sowetan on the day that 81 illegal miners known as zama-zamas appeared in court, the residents said muggings and robberies are a common occurrence in the area. So brutal are the zama-zamas that they target lunchboxes of pupils. 


Police have been using a drone to monitor illegal mining operations in Krugersdorp, on the West Rand, with Gauteng provincial commissioner Lt-Gen Elias Mawela saying they encountered challenges when raiding the mine dump.

Yesterday, police officers, including K-9 units, raided a mine dump in Krugersdorp, arresting two of 11 zama-zamas and confiscated gas cylinders and phendukas (hand-driven cylinders).


Heightened police operations alone around areas known for illegal mining will not stop the influx and the activities of the zama-zamas.

This is according to advocacy group Bench Marks Foundation (BMF), which monitors good governance, ethical and social responsibility of mining companies.

SOWETAN | "Policing aside, this problem equally needs cooperative and deliberate action between SA and the governments of our neighbouring countries to close the gaps explored by these syndicates."

SOWETAN | "While residents of West Village and other communities that have been terrorised by criminal gangs without police action may feel it's too little too late, we welcome having reached this point. There is still a long way to go for the police to regain the trust of communities like West Village, which have lived in constant fear and with self-imposed curfews while the police simply did nothing."


A balaclava-clad gang has been terrorising some communities on the West Rand, leaving a trail of destruction and forcing at least 10 families to flee their homes.

Known as Marashea, the gang is believed to be made up of people from Lesotho who are identified by blankets they wear over their shoulders. The gang has been targeting a number of areas, including Mohlakeng and Purification Farm in Randfontein.

Frustrated Mohlakeng residents are pleading with authorities to reopen a satellite police station to help curb violent crimes in the Rand West district.

The request comes as residents allege that there is a group of Lesotho nationals that are behind a series of crimes in their neighbourhood.

More than two years after establishing a community policing forum (CPF) in Madala Section, the mostly female group dissolved when it became increasingly dangerous for them to clamp down on crime with the invasion of the Marashea gang.

Kingdom of Lesotho

The Kingdom of Lesotho is worried that the increasing accusations against their citizens in serious criminal activities in SA could ruin diplomatic relations between the two countries.  

On Tuesday, Lesotho placed the allegations high on its weekly cabinet meeting following reports coming from SA alleging that illegal miners from Lesotho had raped a group of women who were shooting a music video in Krugersdorp, on the West Rand, last week.

The prime minister of Lesotho has written a letter of apology to President Cyril Ramaphosa expressing regret over criminal acts committed by Basotho in SA with his government even offering to foot the bill for the prosecution of those implicated.