‘Zama Zama’s make our lives a living hell’

2017-08-17 09:37
Mine shaft

Mine shaft

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WATCH: Zama zama miners want to be made legal

2017-08-16 10:18

Zama-zama miners from all over the country marched on the Department of Mineral Resources demanding an immediate moratorium of the persecution of illegal miners and the decriminalisation of their trade.WATCH

THE community of Matholeville, in Roodepoort, is living in fear because Zama Zamas are digging under their houses. This is according to a resident, who did not want to be name for fear of his life. The man claims their councillor is also ignoring their pleas. 

HOLE IN THE KITCHEN 

The resident alleges that their councillor, Sabelo Ncana, doesn’t care about their well-being and safety as he no longer lives in the area. He says the illegal miners have taken over their neighbourhood and community members are scared of them. He says he is scared to sleep in his shack that has been his home for about 30 years, because of the hollow sphere beneath it. “I’m forced to seek shelter at a friend’s house even though I have my own place. My kitchen floor has a huge hole in it that was caused by the drilling made by the Zama Zamas. I don’t know how deep the hole goes but it’s quite deep as I’ve tried to fill it up with water and the hole just swallows the water without it over-flooding,” he says.  “During the night you can hear the Zama Zamas grinding and drilling. Sometimes it causes our shacks to vibrate. We live in constant fear that our houses will collapse and disappear under the earth.”   

ZAMA ZAMAS IN ACTION 

He also explains that they have been complaining about their living conditions to the authorities, but no  one seems to take them seriously. “I’ve been going up and down for the last couple of years trying to get help, but every door I knock on seems to be a dead-end or they just send me to another department. Our councillor is not interested in our concerns,” he says. Move! visited the informal settlement where he lives. On our arrival, we could see the Zama Zamas in action right in front of the residents. Matholeville is located near an abandoned mining shaft that is now used by the Zama Zamas to salvage the left-over gold. “This is what we call life, we see them every day as if it’s lawful for them to do their mining here,” says the angry resident. Move! also discovered that most of the illegal miners live  in the area. The resident says that the Zama Zamas are not originally from Matholeville, but are people who come from as far as Maputo in Mozambique. “So they don’t care what happens to our land,” says the resident. “The Zama Zamas are mostly foreign nationals that came here just for the gold.

GUNSHOTS AND SCREAMING

Another resident, who didn’t want to be named, as he fears that the Zama Zamas might hunt him down, says that their lives are also put at risk when the illegal miners fight for territory. “Almost every night you can hear gunshots, people running and screaming and we all know that’s the disturbance caused by the illegal miners. They kill each other over disputes for better territories,” says the other resident. “I don’t allow my children to play near the old shafts and as soon as the sun sets they know they are supposed to be home. The crime levels are so high and there is hardly any police intervention.”

PROTEST AGAINST COUNCILLOR

The residents are not pleased the way things are done by their councillor. Their basic sanitation needs are not been met at all on top of the Zama Zama problem they’re facing. Late last year, Matholeville residents hogged headlines as they took to the streets to protest against their councillor and the violence caused by the illegal miners. A few months later, they’re still not pleased as nothing has changed. “We have been protesting for nothing as we still face the same problems, and people are still getting robbed and killed,” said another resident. In our first attempt to talk to councillor Sabelo, he said that he’s aware of the residents’ concerns and won’t continue talking to Move! until he gets the names of the people that were interviewed.“I do know about the zama zama situation. But I won’t prolong this conversation any longer till you name those people who said all of those allegations about me,” he said. On our second attempt, Sabelo says the crisis in his ward is beyond redemption. “We have tried on numerous occasions to put in place strict measures by engaging the police, the department of Minerals and Energy, but the problem is that money is exchanging hands. We have closed so many shafts but illegal miners open them again. These miners also bribe residents and the police,” he says

Read more on:    zama zamas  |  mining  |  illegal mining

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