Seven suspected illegal miners — commonly known as zama zamas — were arrested in Welkom and 23 vehicles at an estimated value of more than R5 million seized, the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), better known as the Hawks, said.
Hawks spokesperson in the Free State Captain Christopher Singo said they were arrested in the early hours of Tuesday, and are being held on allegations of illegal mining, money laundering, theft and corruption.
“Their arrests were effected during the termination of a project-driven investigation led by the Hawks Serious Organised Crime Investigation team in Free State. The project investigation began in July 2018, aimed at disrupting and dismantling the identified threat of illicit mining in the Welkom and Thabong areas,” Singo said.
He said during the course of the investigation, the alleged targets were identified as syndicate members who were involved in illicit mining activities and money laundering, as well as corruption.
“It is alleged that these syndicate members are owners of various businesses that are operating legally and generate some income. However, those companies are allegedly used to launder large amounts of money generated through their illegal mining business activities. Moreover they allegedly use runners to illegally recruit foreign nationals to work as zama-zamas and then obtain the gold-bearing material and sell it to illegal gold buyers.”
He said several items were seized during the arrest, including 23 vehicles with an estimated value of more than R5m, two firearms, two gas bottles, a cutting torch set with pipes, documents and an undisclosed amount of money.
“The suspects are expected to appear in court soon,” Singo said.
Eighty-seven zama zamas were arrested on October 20 at Shaft 2 in Orkney in the North West province, following an intelligence-driven operation by a multi-disciplinary team of law enforcement officers.
The group allegedly opened fire on the team when they arrived at the shaft.
Six were gunned down and eight injured.
The group has since abandoned their bail application at the Orkney Magistrate’s Court. They are facing charges of attempted murder, illegal possession of prohibited firearms and ammunition, illegal possession of gold, theft and conspiracy to commit an offence.
National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson in North West Henry Mamothame said their status verification was completed and they were all found to be in the country without legal documents.
Their case was postponed to December 1 for investigation.
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