Police, roads and transport MEC Sam Mashinini says sting operations to deal with illicit mining in crime-ridden Lejweleputswa have scored significant success.
A beaming Mashinini, accompanied by Free State provincial commissioner Lieutenant General Moeketsi Sempe, told a media briefing on Wednesday at the SAPS headquarters at the Metpol Building in Bloemfontein the police were happy with their progress in the area.
Mashinini said police will to hesitate to act in the same manner as the illegal miners in order to bring stability and nothing will stop them until they attain their ultimate goal of zero illegal activities in Lejweleputswa.
“We will continue to push criminals backward and we will not stop until Lejweleputswa becomes a crime-free area. I would like to applaud the SAPS, Hawks and the Harmony Gold security for doing a sterling job of reducing illicit mining activities there. Our approach has proved to be very effective and we promise to continue working hard. We will not be intimidated by anyone; the operation will continue until the statistics hit zero criminal activities,” he vowed.
Sempe noted crime statistics for the Free State over the years had shown some of the violent crimes in Lejweleputswa were connected to illegal mining.
Police descended on the area following an outcry by the local community regarding “increased levels of lawlessness, impunity, intolerance and disregard for the rule of law around Lejweleputswa as a result of the illegal mining”.
Premier Sisi Ntombela and members of the executive council have also raised concern over the propensity of illicit mining in Welkom.
To respond to the community outcry, a multi-dimensional four-phased plan was conceived and executed in Thabong and Welkom, including cordoning the areas and search operations.
The operation is being undertaken by the South African Police Services, the Hawks, Harmony mine security and the Department of Police, Roads and Transport.
“Our intelligence driven operations informed by this multi-dimensional plan started on the 1st July 2019 and it is still ongoing. It focuses not only on illicit mining, but also on illegal firearms, drugs, human trafficking, selling of expired and fake goods, illegal immigrants and a host of serious and violent crimes associated with illegal mining as part of economic stimulus package,” explained Sempe.
He added, “While these operations are set to continue, we can boldly confirm that through the support of mining houses like Harmony Gold, our multi-disciplinary approach consisting of elite units such as Tactical Response Team, Public Order Police, Crime Intelligence, Crime Detection and the Hawks did a huge blow and brought illicit mining to its knees”.
A total of 669 suspects were arrested for various crimes including current and former police officers. About 400 of those nabbed foreign nationals.
Food stuff worth R5 960 000 was destroyed after it was confiscated from illegal tuck shops in the area, said Sempe.
“We would like to guarantee the people of Free State, especially Goldfields, that we are reasserting the authority of the state. If you go around areas like Thabong, activities of surface illegal mining which used to take place daylight have now become history,” he added.
“During our community engagements we listened and our law abiding communities pleaded with us to put a stop to these activities whereby in the middle of the night they would be woken up by sounds of guns”.