Illegal mining should be made legal - zama-zama miners

Pretoria - 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.

Mining Affected Communities United in Action (Macua) as well as zama-zamas handed over a memorandum at the department's offices in Pretoria on Tuesday, calling for the scrapping of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act, the Mining Charter and the freedom of small scale miners.

"It's time we demand our minerals, it's time we take our land," said Macua national organiser  Meshack Mbangula.

"Today our minerals are owned by the by so-called investors. They want to leave us poor.

"When they started, they were zama-zamas, now they call themselves Lonmin. We do the same thing and they call us illegal."

Mbangula said the government had forgotten about them and that mining companies were cruel people who did not want the communities mining the abandoned mines.

"The thugs are the corporates who loot, take our minerals and don't even rehabilitate the land."

Luckyboy Seekoei, the national organiser of the zama-zamas, said they were demanding for the basic right to work, and for trying to put bread on the table they were being called illegal.

"If we don't work, we will not survive. If we don't work we will die," said Seekoei.

'A big enough pie for everyone'

Seekoei, who is from Kimberley in the Northern Cape, said all miners retrenched from corporate mines were welcome to join small scale miners in the pans of Kimberley.

"We have a big enough pie for everyone."

Other zama-zamas from Kimberley said there were no rival gangs and no danger in the diamond capital, as they did not have to go down shafts to find minerals.

They said they had pleaded with government to give them permits to work in abandoned mines because while big mining companies no longer saw such mines as profitable, small scale miners could earn a decent living on the mine "for years to come". 

Mbangula said both big mines and the government have not heeded to calls made and retold of a story of a 5-year-old boy who had allegedly fell down an opened shaft in Jerusalem informal settlement in Ekurhuleni despite the community asking that the shaft be closed.

Five year old Richard Thole allegedly fell down the shaft in February this year, his body has still not been found.

His mother, Nombeko Thole, said he had been playing with friends when he fell into the open shaft. 

Also read: 'I just want my son out of there' - Mom of boy in mine shaft

She said they had asked on numerous occasions to have the shaft closed before the tragedy.

According to Thole, it's uncertain who owns the abandoned shaft as no one has come forward to claim responsibility.

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