Zama zamas are better equipped than us, says police minister as specialised teams activated to move in

Gauteng premier: “They are an armed force”

Gill Gifford Senior journalist
Specialised police units will from Monday be deployed to the West Rand.
Specialised police units will from Monday be deployed to the West Rand.
Image: SAPS - Twitter

Illegal miners or ‘zama zamas’ are “an armed force, gaining more confidence, removing people from their houses and taking over”.

Speaking at a mass meeting between residents and officials in Krugersdorp on the West Rand, Gauteng premier David Makhura described illegal miners as “an issue of national security”.

Makhura, police minister Bheki Cele and national commissioner Gen Sehlahle Fannie  Masemola were among the high-level delegates at the second leg of the ministerial crime combating imbizo at which delegates from the police ministry and SAPS management appealed for calm and promised action after a tense week in the area.

“I am telling you now. The Hawks, the Special Task Force, the National Intervention Unit, the Tactical Response Team. They will all be back here tomorrow [Monday],” Makhura roared, after emotional outbursts from people who are angry, frustrated and scared.

“I myself will be back to deal with this on the 11th when we will go door-to-door and do inspections. I will be back here with the revenue service and home affairs,” he added as the crowd cheered.

Cele then took the podium and declared: “They are better equipped than us. So the Hawks will come back, and will trace the money.”

The aim of the event was to address policing needs, in light of illegal mining activities in the area. More than 100 suspected illegal miners have been arrested since a horrific gang rape in Kagiso  last weekend. Eight women involved in a music video shoot were attacked and raped by suspects believed to be illegal miners.

The West Village Imbizo, as this weekend’s event was labelled on Twitter, saw Krugersdorp residents calling for military intervention in what they said was “a war on the community by illegal miners with weapons of war”, according to police ministry spokesperson Lirandzu Themba.

People were given the opportunity to speak about their fears, concerns and make appeals for what needs to be done. While many threatened violence, others begged for military intervention and for heavy-handed action against illegal miners.

Cele said while he was only minister of police for a particular period, he is and will forever be a father of two girls.

“So I can assure you we are not plastic people. And as a father I do feel this pain. And so I come back each time and I come to this imbizo, and I take your abuse,” he said, referring to accusations earlier by residents that he was living in a nice house, secure with 24-hour protection and with no concern for their safety or plight.

“We need to stop talking to women about rape — we should be speaking to men. There were 10,000 rapes reported in three months, and 50% of those happened in houses. This thing is happening in homes, by people we know. Amafamilies ...” Cele said.

He pledged that interventions in the area will continue until calm is restored.


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