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15 Dec, 2023 09:26

South African Army raids suspected illegal miners

President Cyril Ramaphosa says Pretoria is “tired of criminals operating with impunity” and undermining the country's economy
South African Army raids suspected illegal miners

South African security forces arrested dozens on Thursday in the latest crackdown on illegal mining in the country. The joint military and police operation in the Soul City settlement near Kagiso, west of Johannesburg, also resulted in the seizure of mining equipment after shacks were searched, according to AFP.

Gauteng’s provincial Police Commissioner Elias Mawela told reporters that over 70 people, the majority of whom were undocumented migrants, were detained for two days in the area, which is located near abandoned gold mines.

Others were arrested for dealing drugs and illegal firearms possession, Mawela added.

Pretoria launched Operation Shanela in May, ahead of next year’s election, in response to rampant crime in the country, which has one of the world's highest murder rates. The mission enables security forces to conduct routine searches, roadblocks, high-visibility patrols, and the tracking of wanted suspects, with a particular focus on murder and rape suspects.

On Thursday, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced at a ceremony for new police recruits in Kimberley, the capital of the country's Northern Cape Province, that more than 250,000 arrests have been made since the crackdown began.

Police have also seized over 3,200 firearms and recovered over 1,700 stolen vehicles, Ramaphosa claimed.

Our country is under siege from criminals. Crime is wreaking havoc in communities, destroying lives and tearing families apart. Crime is undermining our economy, affecting small and large businesses alike, and holding back a sustainable economic recovery,” the president said.

We are tired of crime. We are tired of criminals operating with impunity. We are tired of the abuse and violence directed at women, children and other vulnerable groups,” he added.

South Africa, one of the world's leading gold producers, has been experiencing a decline in mining industry output for more than two decades. Authorities have blamed the downturn in part on thousands of illegal miners, claiming that their activities frustrate mining firms and are viewed as a source of criminality by locals.

In July, at least 17 people died from nitrate gas inhalation in South Africa's informal Angelo settlement in Boksburg, an incident officials linked to illegal gold mining activity in the area.

Last month, President Ramaphosa authorized the deployment of 3,300 soldiers to work with police in fighting illegal mining and other crimes.