Zama zamas are wrecking havoc in Krugersdorp, they even steal school kids’ lunchboxes

Residents of West Village in Krugersdorp, where eight women were raped by a group of men, say they have lived in fear long before the incident that shocked the nation.

Speaking on the day that 81 illegal miners known as zama-zamas appeared in court, the residents said muggings and robberies are a common occurrence in the area. So bad is the situation that the zama-zamas are said to also target lunchboxes of pupils.

Nomthandazo Masango said people get mugged on their way to work and also when they return. She said sometimes the illegal miners broke into houses and rob people at gunpoint.

“My neighbour was robbed about two months ago. They held her at gunpoint and the experience was so traumatic that she left this place and went to go rent elsewhere. I know several people who have also been gang raped by these people,” she said.

“As women we live in fear. We cannot get out to buy things from shops at night because of the crime.”

Masango has been living in West Village for 16 years.

“It is a norm for us to see them on the streets, walking around. We identify them by their blankets, long coats and balaclavas. They are always looking dirty. We’ve come to live with them. We are scared but we have nowhere to go.”

Tumi Sechaba, who also has been living in the area for 16 years, said walking the streets in jeans as a woman was uncomfortable.

“They say nasty things like ‘this woman is so beautiful, I’d like to have her’. It really makes one feel unsafe knowing what they can do. They sometimes take lunch boxes from children going to school. That is how bad the situation is. The latest incident of rape has just made our fear worse,” Sechaba said.

Nuradin Kamal, a local businessman, says businesses had become easy targets for the zama-zamas.

“A few months ago they robbed my brother who runs the shop across the street. They put a gun to his head and took away a lot of his stock. Everyone fears them because they are armed. One business owner who ran a scrap yard behind my brother’s shop decided to close after they robbed him of cash twice in a few weeks,” said Kamal.

On Thursday, eight women were robbed and raped by a group of armed men at a mine dump in West Village. One of the women was raped by as many as 10 men. The women were in the mine dump to shoot a music video. Police activated a special operation to find the men behind the horrific crime and they arrested 81 people over two days.

There were protests outside the Krugersdorp magistrate’s court where the men appeared for being in the country without proper documentation. Inside court, the smell from the holding cells was so strong that court staff tried to use air fresheners to control the intense odour in the room.

The young men all looked scruffy and needed translation in Sotho, Shona and Tsonga.

Of the 81, 20 were minors with the youngest being 14. Some told the court they had documentation to prove that they are in the country legally.

The matter was postponed to tomorrow for them to get legal representation, and to go through the identity parade. Police are yet to link any of them to the rape and robbery committed last week.

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