An unattended explosive device caused panic when it detonated as Gauteng police conducted a raid on illegal miners in Matholeville, Roodepoort, on Tuesday. No one was injured.
At around 09:00, the illegal miners fled the area as various police units and City of Johannesburg forensic investigators arrived to comb the area in a bid to crackdown on illegal activities.
Police raid an illegal mining camp in Roodepoort. (Ntwaagae Seleka)
Police stormed into shacks and recovered mining equipment that included explosives, detonators, digging tools, lamps, heaps of gold dust and phendukas, which is a homemade steel drum that is spun to separate gold dust from the soil that is dug up in closed mines.
In some instances, police destroyed some of the makeshift workshops, where illegal miners process the gold.
A crying Givers Ncube, who claimed he was in the country illegally, wiped away tears as police confiscated his bags of soil, which had not been processed yet.
Ncube said he had spent two weeks underground digging for gold.
“I came out early this morning. The police are cruel, how can they take my soil. I know what we are doing is illegal and they should have allowed us to take our stuff away and move out of the place.
“I arrived illegally in this country from Zimbabwe in 2010 after being recruited by my brothers. I was taught this job by fellow Zimbabweans. We are not stealing anything. We are taking what the mines have left underground.”
Police with some of the confiscated mining items. (Ntwaagae Seleka)
Ncube said they walked underground for between five and 10 hours looking for a “fertile” place to mine.
“We carry dangerous equipment like explosives to blow rocks underground. It is also not safe underground as we clash with other zama zamas who want to steal from us.
“Now that the police have taken away my ‘money’, I have to go underground for a longer time soon to make more money. I was expecting between R2 000 and R3 000 from what I had made underground before the police took it away,” he said.
Illegal mining had been his only source of income since arriving in South Africa in 2012.
A police dog and its handler search for evidence. (Ntwaagae Seleka)
Conel Mackay of the City’s group forensic investigation unit said it was concerned about various illegal activities in Matholeville.
“There are illegal water connections used by people here. They have also connected electricity illegally. This is a protected space. Transnet has planted their fuel pipes, running underground, below where they are doing their illegal activities. Those pipes are not deep.
“We were here last year. We hope to bring this under control eventually. The crime rate is also high here because they clash over turf. This is not something that we will eliminate overnight,” added Mackay.
Roodepoort police spokesperson Captain Juanita Yorke said several arrests were made, adding the exact number of suspects would be confirmed at a later date.
A police officer pats down a suspected illegal miner in Roodepoort. (Ntwaagae Seleka)