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Gauteng Nabs Illegal Miners as Rape Probe Continues

FILE: A suspected illegal miner talks to emergency personnel after emerging from an abandoned gold shaft in Benoni, east of Johannesburg, Taken 2.14.2014

South African police arrested more than 40 men over suspected illegal mining on Tuesday in Krugersdorp outside Johannesburg.

Authorities in Gauteng province have stepped up their operations against illegal miners in recent days following reports of the gang rapes of eight women and armed robbery of a video production crew.

The suspects in that case are allegedly illegal miners, but none of those detained on Tuesday have been directly linked to the incident which outraged the Krugersdorp community.

Lieutenant-General Elias Mawela, Gauteng Police Commissioner, stated that while their arrests were directly for mining, authorities are also examining for connections to the alleged gang rapes.

"No, these ones we have arrested them for their own deeds. But the process of taking the fingerprints, the DNA, the buccal sample, whatever, it's our investigation chain," Mawela said.

"We'll continue with that, because when we do that, it also assists us to link these people with other crimes which they have committed before. So, it will help us to continue dealing with those who were evading us all along," he added.

Mawela said illegal mining was an ongoing problem that his police and other authorities are compelled to address.

"This operation is one of those sustained operations we are running in the province to continue dealing with illegal mining and illicit businesses," he said, adding "Usually, you see us when we deal with this illegal mining, we do the disruptive operations, we do the disruptive operations whereby we also remove their tools of trade."

The illegal miners, known as zama-zamas, dig for gold in the Johannesburg area's many closed mine shafts.