Home News 600 soldiers deployed in NC to fight illegal mining

600 soldiers deployed in NC to fight illegal mining

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As the country battles illegal mining, Northern Cape Premier Dr Zamani Saul has announced that about 600 SANDF soldiers will be deployed in the Province to help fight the scourge.

Northern Cape Premier Dr Zamani Saul and provincial commissioner Lieutenant-General Koliswa Otola during the release of the 2nd Quarter Crime statistics for the Province. Picture: Soraya Crowie

AS THE country battles illegal mining, Northern Cape Premier Dr Zamani Saul has announced that about 600 SANDF soldiers will be deployed in the Province to help fight the scourge.

Saul made the announcement during the release of the 2nd Quarter Crime Statistics for 2023/24.

The premier said the population of about 15 000 soldiers stationed at the Lohatla military base in the Northern Cape will be deployed to different parts of the country to help in the fight against illegal mining.

“All the soldiers that will be deployed to deal with the zama-zama problem in the country will be deployed from Lohatla. In the Northern Cape, we will be deploying about 600 of these soldiers,” said Saul.

He said the fight against illegal mining has proven to go “deeper” than just a matter of trying to combat criminal activities.

“I was told that in Namakwa there were between 6 000 and 8 000 zama-zamas in that area. In Kimberley, we also have zama-zamas in their thousands. I do not think this is an issue that the police will be able to address solely and hence the president called in the assistance of the army.

“However, we have to take cognisance that this is a socio-economic matter. The zama-zamas in Kimberley like to march to my office. I advised them to appoint a committee for engagements. During one of our engagements, the leader of the committee informed me that he has a child at university, his house is extended and he is driving two bakkies. He said that he is working as a zama-zama as he was unemployed and used to work for De Beers. He told me that in a bad month while working as a zama-zama he makes about R30 000 or so during the month. That is the amount he makes during a bad month.

“So, this is a socio-economic problem. If we want to address the problem, we need a multidimensional approach and not just making arrests or sending in soldiers to these areas. We also need to look at how we regulate artisanal mining, as these are people who were working at the mines and if they want to steal the minerals to stay alive, they will do so as they are unemployed. This is not only a criminal matter.”

Saul made these comments a day after a multidisciplinary operation aimed at addressing illegal mining in the Kleinzee area in the Namakwa District concluded.

Provincial police spokesperson Colonel Cherel Ehlers said several undocumented nationals were arrested and numerous equipment believed to be used in illegal mining activities were confiscated.

“Day one of the operation was executed during the early hours of November 27 at a settlement, during which 130 undocumented persons were arrested and detained. The majority of those detained and arrested (69) were Swati nationals,” said Ehlers.

“The operations continued on November 29 and an additional 71 undocumented persons were arrested and detained. The majority of that group (28) were Zimbabwean nationals.

“Numerous tools and equipment believed to have been used in the commission of illicit mining were confiscated. The tools consisted of sieves, shovels, iron digging rods and hammers as well as pickaxes.

“All arrested persons will appear in the Port Nolloth Magistrate’s Court soon. Thereafter they will continue to be processed by the Department of Home Affairs, who will administer their deportation,” concluded Ehlers.

A multidisciplinary operation aimed at addressing illegal mining took place in the Kleinzee area recently. Pictures: Supplied
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