In a major operation conducted in Sabie, Mpumalanga, law enforcement authorities have successfully apprehended at least 68 suspected illegal miners. The operation, known as Operation Shanela, took place on Saturday and resulted in the arrest of individuals between the ages of 19 and 54.
According to Colonel Donald Mdhluli, the provincial spokesperson, the arrests were made after an investigation was launched following a report of kidnapping by a victim from Lesotho. The victim had approached the Sabie Police Station in August to report the incident, which led to a thorough investigation.
Based on gathered information, a sting operation was coordinated and executed in the early hours of Saturday. Police officers arrived at the site and successfully apprehended the alleged illegal miners, commonly known as zama-zamas. During the arrests, two firearms with ammunition were seized.
Preliminary investigations have revealed that two of the suspects are allegedly involved in human trafficking, specifically trafficking people from Lesotho and using them for illegal mining activities in the Sabie area. These individuals are currently facing charges of human trafficking, but further charges may be added as the investigation continues.
Colonel Mdhluli emphasized that the investigators believe there may be additional criminal activities that the suspects are involved in. The ongoing probe is being supported by various stakeholders to ensure that justice is served.
The seized firearms will undergo ballistic testing to determine if they have been previously used in committing crimes. This is an important step in linking the suspects to any past offences.
The suspects are expected to appear in the Sabie Magistrate’s Court on Monday, September 18, 2023. In the meantime, Lieutenant General Semakaleng Daphney Manamela, the provincial police commissioner, has praised the collaborative efforts of the law enforcement team. She expressed satisfaction with the large number of arrests made and the discovery of two firearms. Illegal mining is a serious concern in the country, and this successful operation demonstrates the commitment of both the government and the private sector in addressing this challenge.