SA Illegal Mining: NGO Calls For Zama Zamas To Be Legalised

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Bench Marks foundation – a non-profit organisation, calls for the legalisation of small-scale mining and the Zama zamas.

The organisation made this call on Thursday after 29 bodies were discovered in a disused mineshaft in Welkom, Free State this week.

David van Wyk who was speaking for Bench Marks Foundation called on government authorities to hasten up a process that would incorporate illegal miners, so-called Zama zamas, into the South African economic system.

Five more bodies were reportedly discovered from the Eland Shaft on Thursday bringing the total to 30 suspected Zama zamas who have died underground.

Provincial Commissioner in the Free State, Lieutenant General Tsumane who briefed the media on the journey so far in the search for the trapped miners, said that there could be more bodies trapped in the disused Harmony Gold mine and the search will resume on Friday.

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The police believed that the underground explosion which happened on May 11, killed over 40 people and David van Wyk believed that legalising micro and survivalist mining would allow it to be better regulated.

Meanwhile, Precious metals miner Sibanye Gold said earlier that it will clear all zama zamas  from its shafts by the end of January 2018

Detailing how Illegal gold mining plagued SA’s mining companies for decades, Sibanye promised to unleash war on illegal mining and give a zero tolerance for illegal miners.



According to the company, illegal mining robs mining industries and state coffers of billions of rand through small-time pilfering as well as networks run by organised crime.

“We will have them out then,” Sibanye’s CEO, Neal Froneman, said. His campaign slogan is Zero Zama, after the Zulu for illegal miners, “Zama zamas” or “taking a chance”.

As it is, Sibanye stands as the first company in South Africa to set itself a deadline to stop the practice and has set aside R200m to make it happen.

No doubt the task might be quite challenging to it, experts believes Sibanye may win most of the battles but it will lose the war in a country beset by joblessness, poverty, crime and porous borders.

“Sibanye can get it down by 90%, but they will never eradicate it completely,” Louis Nel, a security consultant who works in the West Rand area near Johannesburg, said. “You must never underestimate the ability of an illegal miner” Experts say.

Security experts who also believe that eradicating the works of the Zama zamas will be quite difficult explained that most Zamas not immigrants from neighbouring countries that have long provided migrant labour for SA’s mines, who are now being laid off. The syndicates that support them and traffic the illegal metals are well-funded, well-established and highly dangerous.

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However, Sibanye strategized ways it believes it would achieve its aim of totally eradicate the illegal mining issue: a tip-off and reward system to encourage employees to report suspicious activity; tactical security units that can go underground to make arrests; and access checks such as biometrics, also used by rivals such as Harmony, to ensure only authorised personnel gain entry.

The tip-off system aims at employees who may be on the take, providing the zamas access to working shafts; the biometrics prevent zamas from gaining access, and the tactical units are there to arrest the illegals if they do get through.