S.Africa army raids illegal miners as Ramaphosa talks tough on crimeThu, 14 Dec 2023 14:42:09 GMT

Security forces arrested scores of people in a crackdown on illegal mining on Thursday as President Cyril Ramaphosa said South Africa was “tired of crime”.Dozens of army and police searched shacks, detained suspects and seized mining equipment in the Soul City settlement near Kagiso, west of Johannesburg, AFP reporters saw. More than 70 people were held over two days in the area, which lies near disused gold mines, said provincial police commissioner Elias Mawela.Most were undocumented migrants. Others were arrested for drug dealing and possession of illegal firearms, he told media. Amid high unemployment, illegal immigration and rampant crime have become key political issues ahead of general elections next year. “We are tired of crime. We are tired of criminals operating with impunity,” Ramaphosa told a passing out ceremony for 1,400 new police recruits in the central city of Kimberly. “Enough is enough.” The recruits were among 10,000 new officers who authorities said will enter service this month. Crime is rampant in South Africa, which has one of the world’s highest murder rates.Authorities have been accused of failing to ensure safety, with official data showing only about one in five murder cases is solved.More than 250,000 arrests have been made and 3,200 firearms seized since authorities launched a crackdown on criminality in May, Ramaphosa said.Thousands of illegal miners operate in the mineral-rich country. Their activities frustrate mining companies and are seen as a source of criminality by local residents. In November, Ramaphosa authorised the deployment of 3,300 troops to boost police efforts to tackle the crime. Commonly known as “zama zamas” (“those who try” in the Zulu language), many informal miners are from other countries, living and working in arduous conditions in the clandestine pits.The Johannesburg region is dotted with slag heaps, shafts and deep trenches left by generations of miners, whose arrival in a gold rush in the 1880s led to the birth of the city.Access to the old mines is often controlled by gangs that sometimes fight for territorial control.