More than 20 ‘illegal miners’ arrested in Riverlea, says Bheki Cele

Police minister Bheki Cele has provided an update on police operations in Riverlea. File photo.
Police minister Bheki Cele has provided an update on police operations in Riverlea. File photo.
Image: SAPS

Police minister Bheki Cele has confirmed the arrests of more than 20 suspected illegal miners in Riverlea, Johannesburg, after protest action in the area earlier this week.

Protests erupted in the area on Monday after the discovery of five bodies of suspected illegal miners in Riverlea and the neighbouring Zamimpilo informal settlement. Police have since linked the killings to a shoot-out between two rival groups of illegal miners. 

Residents have called for the deployment of the army to the area to restore law and order. They said the police were no match for the armed miners.

Cele has visited the area twice since residents took to the streets in protest and police confirmed the deployment of forces including the national intervention unit (NIU) and tactical response team (TRT). 

The minister, during the launch of operation Shanela in Cape Town, provided an update on the situation in Riverlea.

“A day ago we were there at about 5pm and there were a lot of issues about the lack of forces on the ground. We did say we'll be escalating there. There were forces there but not enough.

“If you go there today, we've got 56 forces from the different disciplines. We have the NIU, TRT, public order police and municipal officers. Since this morning, more than 20 zama zamas have been arrested,” he told reporters.

Gauteng police spokesperson Brig Brenda Muridili said the deployments will remain in the area until illegal mining activities have been stabilised.

She said police have confiscated illegal miners’ tools of trade including pendukas, gas bottles and bags of gold-bearing sand, adding: “Some of the illegal mining holes across the road from Zamimpilo are being closed by the municipality’s mechanical diggers”.

PA ward councillor and resident Theo Doyle confirmed a “heavy police presence” in the area since Tuesday night. 

He also confirmed raids had taken place at Zamimpilo and arrests had been made.

“They are currently using tractors to close the entrances in the mining area,” he said.

DA ward councillor for ward 68 Solomon Maila called on the government to do more than deploy extra officers when violence flared up between illegal miners and residents.

“Riverlea needs intelligence-driven police operations and prosecutions-led criminal investigations that will result in the successful prosecution of the real masterminds and beneficiaries of the illegal mining activities across Joburg.”


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