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No bail for 56 miners

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56 artisanal miners appeared in the Kimberley Magistrate’s Court following their arrest for public violence and malicious damage to property earlier this week

The SAPS started clearing the R64 Boshof road early yesterday morning. The 53 artisanal miners that were arrested earlier this week appeared in court for their bail applications yesterday. Pictures: Danie van der Lith

BAIL was denied to 56 artisanal miners in the Kimberley Magistrate’s Court on Thursday following their arrest for public violence and malicious damage to property earlier this week.

The miners will remain in custody until their next court appearance.

Members of the public had to be cleared from the courtroom on Thursday to make room for all the suspects to appear in A Court.

The group of artisanal miners were arrested on Wednesday following protest action on Tuesday and Wednesday, where the miners barricaded the R64 road to Boshof after they were prevented from entering Ekapa Mining property.

A driver of a Chevrolet Lumina crashed into several large rocks on the Boshof road, causing damage to both front wheels, while the impact caused both airbags to deploy.

Police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Dimakatso Mooi said that the miners allegedly destroyed a fence at the mine property and pelted police with stones when they tried to disperse them.

By Thursday morning, while the court proceedings were in progress, the road remained closed and motorists were advised to use alternative routes, while the Public Order Police monitored the situation.

The artisanal miners were demanding answers after they had handed over memorandums to the Office of the Premier, the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR), Sol Plaatje Municipality and the SAPS last week.

The memorandum demanded, among others, access to mining land, land for housing, that Ekapa stop working the dumps, that Ekapa’s mining permit be scrutinised and that all charges against fellow artisanal miners be dropped.

The Premier’s Office did not comment on Thursday on whether there were any plans in place for the premier to engage with the artisanal miners.

The spokesperson for the Premier’s Office, Bronwyn Thomas-Abrahams, indicated that they had forwarded the memorandum to the DMR and were awaiting a response.

The DA in the Northern Cape has meanwhile expressed outrage after the protesting miners hacked out chunks of the road surface with a pickaxe and accused the police of just watching on.

The DA’s Andrew Louw condemned the protesters’ actions.

“In addition to destroying the roads they have even started digging out the water pipes that lie under the roads. Regardless of the possibly legitimate grievances that the zama zamas may have with local and provincial government leadership, nothing can justify such destructive and criminal behaviour,” said Louw on Thursday.

“Already, Sol Plaatje Municipality cannot maintain our roads, now residents and businesses will have to suffer even more due to this blatant attack on infrastructure.

“The roads and water system belong to all of us, we depend on it to get to work and school, to buy food and to get access to water to sustain ourselves.

“Who will fix the roads and water pipes when the protests are over, and where will the money come from?”

The DA called on the police to urgently seek reinforcements to help them get the situation that is playing out in Cassandra and on Samaria Road under control.

“SAPS’s Public Order Police must also be better equipped, trained and capacitated to be able to control criminal behaviour.”

The miners refused to comment on the matter and accused the media of being biased.