Twenty-one alleged zama zamas (illegal miners) arrested in the North West this week have been remanded in custody after making their first court appearance.
Alleged zama zamas appear in court
The group, aged between 19 and 40, appeared briefly on Wednesday in the Stilfontein Magistrates’ Court.
They face charges of conspiracy to commit robbery to wit gold, possession of illegal firearms, unlawful possession of ammunition and contravention of the Immigration Act.
The accused, 15 Lesotho nationals and five South African citizens, were arrested on Monday at an abandoned mineshaft in Stilfontein during a joint police operation to clamp down on illegal mining activities.
Police seized 15 AK47s, six hunting rifles, two shotguns and one R5, including boxes full of ammunition, explosives and an undisclosed amount of money.
During the group’s court appearance, there was a heavy police presence outside the court and an additional suspect was added to the case.
Initially, only 20 alleged illegal miners were arrested on Monday.
Hawks spokesperson Colonel Katlego Mogale said the 21st accused was arrested on Tuesday, at his home in Stilfontein.
The man was nabbed after being seen in footage collected during police surveillance with his vehicle delivering goods at the shaft on several occasions. The vehicle was also seized.
The case against the men was postponed to 18 October 2022, for verification of their addresses and their immigration status.
Meanwhile, Police Minister Bheki Cele on Tuesday visited the disused mine where the group of suspects was arrested.
The minister was accompanied by National Police Commissioner General Fannie Masemola and Hawks head Godfrey Lebeya.
He said police, working with other law enforcement authorities and government departments, would continue with operations targeting the kingpins and masterminds involved in illegal mining.
West Rand ‘illegal mining kingpins’
Last week, six alleged kingpins behind an illegal mining syndicate in Carletonville and Khutsong township were arrested during a joint police operation.
A total of 14 high-performance vehicles and a truck were confiscated during their arrests.
Bethuel Ngobeni, Dumisa Moyo, Nhlanhla Magwaca, Moseki Sechele, Thabo Sechele and Khudzai Mashaya appeared in the Carletonville Magistrates’ Court last Wednesday.
The six men are all believed to be South Africans and face four counts of fraud, possession of ammunition, contravention of the Precious Metals Act, and three counts of contravention of the Immigration Act.
The accused are expected back in court on 19 October 2022, for their formal bail hearing.