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Ramaphosa deploys more soldiers to tackle illegal mining in Free State

AN additional 395 military personnel will be deployed to the Free State to help combat illegal mining and other criminal activities in the province.

This was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa during his interaction with local communities in Welkom last Friday.

Last month he authorised the deployment of 3 300 army personnel to help the police in the fight against illegal mining activities across South Africa, but it could not be established how many of those had been sent to the Free State.

In response to concerns raised during the District Development Model Presidential Imbizo held at the Kopano Indoor Sports Centre in Welkom, Ramaphosa also promised his government would provide more vehicles to boost police visibility in the mining town.

“An announcement was made that an additional 395 SANDF (South African National Defence Force) members will be deployed to assist in dealing with various crimes in the province, including illegal mining,” presidential spokesperson Vincent Magwenya said in a statement.

“Ten more vehicles will be provided to two police stations around Welkom to ensure police visibility in the area and strengthen the police capacity to combat crime in the province,” he added.

Illegal gold mining has been a continuing threat in Welkom and surrounding areas for decades, with poverty, unemployment and crime driving the underground industry.

Informal miners known as “zama zamas” – the Zulu term for people who try their luck – risk their lives in disused mines and rudimentary tunnels without safety measures.

A gas explosion in May killed approximately 31 of them working illegally in Welkom, trapping their bodies underground.

The police have for years struggled to clamp down on illegal mining activities, often characterised by turf wars involving armed gangs. – Staff Reporter

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