TRENCH WARFARE IN KAGISO

Everson Luhanga

Carrying sjamboks, shovels, hammers, stones, and sticks, residents of Kagiso moved in on Thursday to drive artisanal miners and foreigners out of their community.

The defiant and angry residents of Kagiso united to chase out everyone whom they suspected of illegal mining.

The battle to get rid of zamazamas in Krugersdorp and other surrounding areas is real.

Locals in the area blame zamazamas – men from Mozambique, Lesotho, and Zimbabwe – for the spiralling crime rate in their community.

The locals who knew where the zamazamas lived pointed out their shacks in the Soul City squatter camp.

The group, mostly led by energetic and angry men, broke into the shacks using hammers and shovels.

When the terrified zamazamas saw the community coming for them, they ran for their lives.

Some of the miners were found in their shacks. Trying to run and escape the mob, they were chased like wild animals in the bush.

They were captured, tied up with cables, and taken into private bakkies. Some bakkies had canopies and some did not.

The captives sat in the bakkies helplessly exposed to cameras from journalists and cell phone users as they waited for the drivers to take them to the police station to be detained.

Those zamazamas who managed to elude the mob had one place to hide – the abandoned shafts where they make their living, searching through the dumps of long worked out mines for traces of gold and other minerals.

Heavily armed, they holed up in the shafts and waited for the onslaught.

When they found out that most of the zamazamas were not in their shacks, the mob switched their focus to the shafts and tunnels.

It was not a walk in the park. Residents were met with fire as the armed zamazamas fought back with live ammunition.

Some residents ran for cover but some found the holes and disappeared underground, hunting for the zamazamas.

Police arrived and fired tear gas into the shafts.

Residents covered up the holes with huge rocks and stones, making sure that whoever had gone down there would not find their way out.

Gauteng provincial Deputy Commissioner Major General Tommy Mthombeni said they would collaborate with the mining industry to make sure that everyone is brought to the surface.

But the zamazamas know their way around. During the lockdown, they hid in the tunnels out of fear that if they came out, police would pounce on them.

Most of the miners are destitute and hungry boys and men from the poorest parts of Africa.

They endure the hardship of life as a zamazama, spending weeks underground hunting for rocks in spaces that the mining companies long gave up on.

Many of the arrested miners were children as young as 12 years old, boys in a desperate fight for survival.

But now they are being treated like hardcore criminals, subjected to beatings and thrown into Kagiso’s cold police cells.