Five people have been shot dead in what is believed to be an incident of gang violence between illegal miners in Johannesburg.
The bodies were found this weekend at the Zamimpilo settlement, near an abandoned mine shaft in the area of Riverlea, the police said on Sunday.
“The preliminary investigation shows that two hostile groups of illegal miners in the area fired at each other and that this led to the death of people,” says Lt. Col. Mavela Masondo, police spokesperson in Gauteng.
Members of the police’s tactical response unit and the public order unit were deployed in the area and five cases of murder were filed.
James Lorimer, the DA’s spokesperson on mineral resources, says residents told that men, armed with automatic firearms, moved through the neighborhood and fired.
“One resident says they helped a badly wounded man and woman on the pavement outside their house while they waited for an ambulance to come.
“Other residents say a man was wounded and taken away by the police. Videos being circulated show gunmen moving through the area and the sound of continuous automatic gunfire. Still other residents say one of the gangs left the area with what looked like two bodies wrapped in blankets,” says Lorimer.
The Zamimpilo settlement consists of hundreds of shacks where most of the residents are ostensibly foreigners and the primary activities are illegal mining and illegal gold panning.
“The settlement is a few meters from Hoofrif Road and is located between Riverlea and Industria. It lies on top of the underground Transnet fuel pipeline and a large high-pressure water pipe.
“This is another source of concern. If illegal mining operations damage any of the pipelines, large numbers of people could die or be injured,” says Lorimer.
Fighting between warring factions has been raging for months in the Zamimpilo area and according to Lorimer the “police is usually absent”.
“Whether they are involved or not, they don’t seem to be making any public statements about it. The same applies to police action, if any, against illegal miners nationwide. The failure of the police to keep the public informed – and what they are doing about it – is unacceptable in a democracy.
“Until there is a deliberate and planned effort to tackle criminality related to the illegal mining industry, the government will continue to lose parts of South Africa and the police will simply be the ones picking up the bodies after the shooting is over. “