Zama Zamas speak out, reveal unknown truths about them: Krugersdorp women were r@ped by guards!

Five days after a mob raided Soul City informal settlement in search for zama zamas, illegal miners are back at it.

The news crew visited the plant deep in the settlement in Kagiso, on the West Rand, on Tuesday, with two illegal miners telling of how they had survived Thursday’s violent raids in which some zama zamas were stripped naked and sjamboked.

They said many others were starting to return to check the situation and if they could restart operations.

The illegal miners detailed how the events of the recent days have impacted their reputation in the community. One of the illegal miners, who wanted to be identified as Alex, 28, of Nyambane in Mozambique, said he survived the attacks on Thursday because he had not gone to the plant to work.

“The community arrived here around 8.30am on Thursday. I was not at the plant but in my shack. The guys that were attacked are those who were already there. We start operating in the plant from 6am till 5pm. Even when they raided shacks, in mine they could not find any tools so they did not trouble me. Shacks that were burnt were those found with tools and soil with gold content,” Alex said.

He said the plant, which is an open space with tents, was started two years ago after residents complained that they were making noise by cleaning gold within their shacks.

All the zama zamas then moved to the open space. Each of the tents has a big trench where the water flows when they sift gold from the sand.

“We’ve been doing this inside the community. I do not understand why they can suddenly attack us. I believe that the people that came to our plant were from Kagiso not Soul City. The people here know that we are not criminals, we just do our work here and do not trouble anyone,” Alex said.

He said he started illegal mining in 2014 and with the money he makes he takes care of his five-year-old daughter, who also lives in SA. He was reluctant to state how much money they make.

On Thursday, angry Kagiso residents went on the rampage and burnt shacks belonging to illegal miners. Residents backed by private security captured zama zamas in the bushes, stripped them naked, beat them before handing them over to the police.

On the day, police threw 26 suspected zama zamas behind bars and a man was found dead on the streets.

The “cleanup” operation by Kagiso residents was in retaliation to the rape of eight women on July 28, allegedly by illegal miners. The women were at a mine dump in West Village, Krugersdorp, when they were attacked, some being raped by as many as 10 men.

Alex said South Africans should not be angry at illegal miners and claimed that they contribute to the economy.

“We spend the money we make here in SA. About 10% goes back to our countries. Even the gold that we get here does not leave SA. It ends in the SA market. We spend money buying food and clothes for our families in SA. There is very little that goes back home,” he said.

Alex said the Krugersdorp rape incident had badly affected their work as most people now associate them with violent crime.

“We know that our work here in SA is illegal but we are not criminals. We are doing what we do just to feed our families. What happened in Krugersdorp was wrong and we also want those people to be caught,” Alex said.

As Alex spoke, more zama zamas arrived to see what was happening and if they could start digging again. Among them was one who asked to be called Pastor. He was also from Nyambane.

Pastor quit his business of selling perfumes and clothes in 2019 due to a lack of profit. He had been selling for 18 years since arriving in SA in 2001. “I chose this work because I make more money here than selling in the streets. With the money I make here, I take care of my wife and three children back home. It is unfortunate that people now say we are criminals,” he said.

Pastor said he believes that the people who committed the crime in Krugersdorp are those who work as security guards at the plantations. That is probably why none of all the +130 Zama Zamas who have been arrested so far have not been linked to the gang-rape disaster.

“When we work here in the plant, there are people that we pay who guard our operation. They stay in the bushes. Some of them are Zulus, Sothos and Swatis. They are the ones who are armed. They do not live in the community like us but stay in the bushes,” Pastor said.

He said each time a person joins the plant, they pay between R100 and R200 to the security. Every day, each illegal miner has to leave a portion of the soil with gold content to security so that they can also make a living.

When asked who the buyer of the gold is, Pastor replied: “You can be the buyer if you want to. It is that simple.”

Though Alex and Pastor maintained they were at their plant to see if they could start working, other illegal miners were not willing to wait.

The news team saw a van drive into the plant and left with bags of soil.

“We are still scared but we do not have anything else to do. This is the work that we do, we have to get going,” said Alex.​

On Thursday, Soul City was abuzz with thousands of Kagiso residents searching for illegal miners. On Tuesday, there was absolute silence.

A group of six boys played soccer in a small open field at the centre of the informal settlement. There was no police presence at all.

On Sunday, police minister Bheki Cele told Kagiso residents that more resources will be deployed on the West Rand to fight illegal miners. He said zama zamas are better equipped, thus the Hawks will “come back and will trace the money”.

– Sowetan

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