20 reported shot as Riverlea’s zama zamas battle for control

Issued by James Lorimer MP – DA Shadow Minister of Mineral Resources
30 Jul 2023 in News

There was another major gun battle between different gangs of illegal miners in the Johannesburg suburb of Riverlea last night.

Residents reported gangs of men armed with automatic weapons moving through suburban areas and heavy gunfire. They say up to 20 people were shot. One resident says they treated a seriously wounded man and woman on the pavement outside their house while waiting for an ambulance to arrive. Other residents say a man was shot and wounded and taken away by police. Videos being circulated show armed men moving through the suburb and to the sound of continuous automatic gunfire. Other local reports say one gang left the area carrying what appeared to be two bodies wrapped in blankets.

Last week a Riverlea resident was killed in crossfire. It is unclear whether it was crossfire between rival mining gangs or whether it involved the police.

Windows are regularly broken and cars damaged by flying bullets as rival gangs attempt to assert control over the Zamamphilo mining settlement, a collection of hundreds of shacks where most of the occupants appear to be foreigners and where the primary activities are illegal mining and illegal gold processing. The settlement is a few meters from Main Reef Road and sits between Riverlea and Industria. It lies atop the buried Transnet fuel pipeline and a major high-pressure water main. This is another major source of concern. If illegal mining activities rupture either pipeline, large numbers of people could be killed or injured.

There have been many gunbattles in and around Zamimphilo and Riverlea for months. Police are usually absent from these battles. Whether they are involved or not, it seems they do not issue public statements about it. The same is true about police actions, if any, against illegal miners countrywide. The failure of the police to inform the public about what is happening and what they are doing about it is unacceptable in a democracy.

The DA calls on police to tell the public what they are doing about illegal miners in Riverlea. Until they do so, the belief will spread that police are too weak to tackle the gangs or else they are paid off to do nothing proactive about the centre of criminality that is Zamimphilo.

Until there is a deliberate and systematic effort to tackle criminality associated with illegal mining the government will continue to lose control of parts of South Africa and the police will be relegated to mere collectors of bodies after the shooting is done.

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