- Gun-toting zama zamas have left residents of Slovoville fearing for their lives.
- Residents claimed two rival groups of illegal miners were fighting for territory in the area.
- Police have arrested four illegal miners after two people were recently killed in the township.
"We are under constant lockdown and live like prisoners in our homes."
Residents of Slovoville, a remote township situated outside Dobsonville, Soweto, have been living in fear because of daily gun battles between rival zama zama (illegal miner) groups.
"They are armed like soldiers. They operate without fear of the police and residents. They are brazen. They are hoodlums. They shoot to kill. If you don't believe me, you can ask Dobsonville police officers," *Dimakatso said.
Dimakatso and her neighbour, Sipho*, narrated to News24 how the bold and heavily armed illegal miners, who speak Sesotho, were running amok in the township.
The two asked not to be named because they feared for their safety.
Dimakatso said it would be a miracle if two days went by without any gunshots.
Some of the illegal miners reside in old buildings in the township.
According to residents, other zama zamas were scattered in the bushes surrounding Slovoville, "waiting for their prey".
"They hide from their prey in the bushes surrounding our township. They would then pounce on them, and the shooting begins. Those men are heavily armed. They carry machine guns similar to those carried by soldiers.
"Some carry handguns. For now, I am glad that they have killed no one from our township. They fight among themselves. We have been told that two Basotho groups are killing each other here. They are fighting for gold behind our soil," Dimakatso said.
Sipho said some of the gunmen have had mercy on Slovoville residents.
"Whenever they go on their wars, they warn us to stay indoors to avoid being hit by stray bullets. They usually walk in our streets and shout for us to lock our houses. I think they don't want us to be caught in their crossfire.
"Over the weekend, there was another heavy gunfire, where two men were killed in broad daylight. Since August, our township has been turned into a warzone where dead bodies are being collected weekly," said Sipho.
Sipho said the two groups relocated to Slovoville from Westonaria.
"One of the ring leaders of the zama zamas is hiding in our township. His rivals, who are baying for his blood, come here looking for him, forcing his gang members to retaliate and defend him with guns.
"Something must be done before they take over our township. We are surviving on God's grace. It is just a matter of time before they invade our homes and kick us out," added Sipho.
Residents said their biggest fear was sunset, when the gun battles often occur.
Recently, during a joint operation, police and officers from the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department came under fire from about 20 armed zama zamas.
The officers were searching for a group of illegal miners who had killed two people in the area over the weekend.
Nobody was injured in the gun battle between the officers and zama zamas.
Four people were later arrested for murder and attempted murder.
Police were yet to comment on the matter.
*Not their real names