Police Minister Bheki Cele has urged Zama Zamas operating in Riverlea, Johannesburg, to come out from underground since all illicit mining holes will be permanently closed soon.
Cele was speaking to the community at an imbizo on Friday, following community protests against illicit mining that began after the bodies of five suspected illegal miners were recovered on Monday.
Police have arrested 194 suspected illegal miners since then, 170 of whom are undocumented foreign immigrants.
Cele stated that during his visit, he learned that two previously closed holes had been reopened for illegal mining and that the region had 61 holes from which Zama Zamas were operating.
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“Tell them to come out. Where you have spotted these people, speak to the police and all of us will work to take the people out … There are people illegally there and they must find their way out.
“If they don’t leave, our job is to close the holes. We did not send them there. Our first choice is that they must come out but we will not wait forever,” Cele added.
Cele refuted that just Zama Zamas were targeted with thw operations, adding that “middlemen who receive the gold and resell it to the top guys” had been arrested.
According to Cele, the “top guys” live in Sandton and Dubai, while the intermediaries live in homes that appear ordinary from the outside but are loaded with expensive imported furnishings.
He said that 89 persons were apprehended while attempting to sell gold bars for R5 million each.
Cele added, “A few months ago, in Carletonville, we arrested six of these [middle] guys … Those six men had Lamborghinis and Mercedes-Benzes.”
According to Johannesburg city manager Floyd Brink, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy indicated the holes would be closed by mid-September with the municipality’s assistance. The city would also send teams to assist.