Residents go on the rampage looking for illegal miners, hurl stones and bottles at police

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Residents who went on a rampage looking for illegal miners clashed with the police.
Residents who went on a rampage looking for illegal miners clashed with the police.
Ntwaagae Seleka
  • Police clashed with residents of Borwa in the West Rand over suspected illegal miners in the area.
  • The residents wanted to go to where the zama zamas were hiding, but claimed they were prevented by police.
  • Police fired rubber bullets at the residents, who threw stones and bottles at them.

Rampaging residents looking for suspected illegal miners clashed with the police, hurling stones and bottles at them, and accusing them of siding with the zama zamas.

Police used pepper spray and fired rubber bullets on Wednesday to prevent the residents of Borwa, a newly developed community on Gauteng's West Rand, from crossing over Jan Blignaut Road to where they claimed illegal miners were hiding.

Residents, who barricaded the road that runs from Westonaria to the N12 with burning tree branches and tyres, complained that illegal miners operating from a nearby mine dump were "terrorising" them.

Vehicles were prevented from accessing some streets.

Gauteng police spokesperson Brenda Muridili said nine people, between the ages of 21 and 27, were subsequently arrested in connection with public violence and tampering of infrastructure.

Some residents went to a nearby mine dump, where they claimed illegal miners operated.

Leading the group earlier in the morning was Charles Hlatswayo.

He said that, at the mine dump, they found equipment used by illegal miners.

Hlatswayo and his small group of men returned to recruit more residents, when they were met with resistance from the police.

"We then set alight their makeshift shelters. The illegal miners are operating closer to our homes. Some are even tenants in our township. We don't want them anymore," Hlatswayo said.

Police later arrived and opened fire on the crowd. Residents retaliated by throwing stones at the police.

This irked Hlatswayo; he and other leaders confronted the police and accused them of being on the side of illegal miners.

"Why are they shooting at us? What wrong have we done?"We are peaceful and fighting for a genuine reason. They are afraid to remove illegal miners. They should be grateful that we are doing their job," said Hlatswayo.

Thembi Xuli, who was among those who threw stones at the police, said: "We want to go [to the mine dump]. The police have taken sides with the illegal miners. Why are they stopping us? Why are they protecting them? Those people are victimising us. We are tired. We want them out." 

READ | 20 arrested in raid on market in downtown Pretoria

Some residents, who hid in their yards, also threw stones at the police and shouted for illegal miners to leave.

Xuli said residents wouldn't stop their protest until the illegal miners were gone. She accused the police of being nowhere to be seen when the community reported crimes that had been allegedly committed by the illegal miners.   

"We are no longer safe in our homes. We asked the police to escort us to the mine dump to remove illegal miners and they refused. [The police] are only good at shooting at us," she said.

"We are not violent. We want the police to help keep Borwa safe for all, especially women."We don't want to see more women raped. We are proactive and demand support from the police. They have failed us, as usual."

A community leader, Paseka Ndlovu, vowed they would continue their protest, saying they had delivered a memorandum to the Westonaria police station."We demand the police's assistance to fight illegal miners. The majority of them wear Basotho blankets."There are many complaints of crime [allegedly] committed by illegal miners wearing blankets. We have many homes that are occupied by women only. They are soft targets for criminals," said Ndlovu.He said they had established that the illegal miners had migrated from Mohlakeng, Kagiso, Bekkersdal and Krugersdorp."They must go away. They are dangerous...

"Our women and children feel unsafe since they have been here. We want the police to assist us," Ndlovu said.

"They have been seen carrying AK47s and other guns. Some of them are military trained."

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