17 more illegal miners arrested in SA

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  • total number of arrests following last week’s horrific rape incident stands at 82,
  • the suspects are believed to be Lesotho nationals.

Mohalenyane Phakela

SEVENTEEN more illegal immigrants have been arrested as the South African Police Services (SAPS) continue investigations into last week’s horrific rape of eight women by unknown men at an abandoned mine in Krugersdorp.

This brings the total of those who have been arrested to 82.

It is said that eight women, aged between 19 and 35, were filming a music video at an abandoned mine dump in West Village,  Krugersdorp last Thursday when they were accosted, raped and robbed by a gang of illegal miners popularly known as Zama-zamas.

In an interview, Gauteng police spokesperson, Brigadier Brenda Muridili, said some of the illegal miners were allegedly clad in the traditional blankets associated with Basotho, hence the widespread suspicion that Lesotho nationals were among the perpetrators of the heinous crimes.

Brigadier Muridili however, said she was not yet in a position to confirm whether the suspects were indeed Basotho. She said when they were arrested the suspects did not have any identity documents, hence she would only be able to confirm their identities after engaging South Africa’s Home Affairs ministry.

She said they would appear in court on Monday on charges of violating immigration laws.

“No one has been linked to the (rape) incident as yet and the (police) stations are continuing with their day-to-day operations to probe the matter,” Brigadier Muridili said.

“As of now, those arrested have been nabbed for contravening the Immigration Act. Arrests of undocumented persons in the whole of West Rand (Gauteng) are a regular occurrence.

“I guess that by virtue of the suspects allegedly wearing balaclavas and blankets, the media decided to refer to them as Lesotho nationals. However, for our office to confirm that they indeed are Lesotho nationals, we need confirmation from the Department of Home Affairs. We cannot mention their nationality when it has not yet been verified.

“Those arrested will appear at the Krugersdorp Magistrates’ Court on Monday,” Brigadier Muridili said.

A SAPS statement on the alleged rape incident says that two suspects were fatally shot and 65 were arrested during a multi-disciplinary operation in Krugersdorp.

“On 29 July 2022, the Provincial Commissioner of Police in Gauteng, Lieutenant General Elias Mawela, led a multi-disciplinary team of law enforcement agencies and security companies following an alleged incident of gang rape and armed robbery where a production company’s crew was allegedly attacked in Krugersdorp, West Village on 28 July 2022.

“The multi-disciplinary team comprised of officials from Crime Intelligence, Special Task Force, National Intervention Unit, Tactical Response Team, K9, Flying Squad, Highway Patrol, SAPS Airwing and Tracker helicopter as well as Department of Home Affairs and other private security stakeholders. The Airwing and the deployment of drone technology were assisting the ground forces to track the fleeing suspects.

“The operation which was also joined by the Executive Mayor of Mogale City, Counsellor Tyrone Gray and his team resulted in the arrest of 65 suspects for contravention of the Immigration Act, including one that is hospitalised for gunshot treatment. Two more suspects were fatally shot after allegedly pointing firearms during police operations. Two unlicensed firearms, explosives as well as other items that belong to the victims have since been recovered.

“It is reported that on 28 July 2022 in the afternoon, the crew of 22 people (12 women and 10 men), were busy filming a music video when they were allegedly attacked by a group of armed men clad in blankets. The suspects ordered everyone to lay down and proceeded to rape eight of the women and robbed every one of their belongings before fleeing the scene,” SAPS said in its 29 July 2022 statement.

The statement also says that SAPS is still investigating the alleged rape of the eight women as well as the robbery.

“The Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (division of the SAPS) is investigating 32 counts of rape following the rape of the eight women as well as a case of armed robbery.

“While police continue with operations, members of the public are encouraged to report knowledge of any criminal activities by calling the SAPS Crime Stop toll free number 08600 10111 or to send tip-offs via MySAPS Application which can downloaded on any smartphone.”

The alleged rape incident is merely the latest in the ever escalating list of violent crimes that Lesotho nationals- particularly illegal miners- who are associated with Famo gangs, have been accused of in South Africa.

There are growing fears that Basotho involvement in violent crimes in the neighbouring country could jeopardise the bilateral relations between the two countries and lead to more stringent immigration measures against Lesotho nationals seeking to enter South Africa.

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