Froneman calls on Govt to provide military support in effort to stem scourge of ‘zama-zamas’

llegal miners (Zama Zamas) are raided on September 30, 2021 in Randfontein, South Africa. Operation O Kae Molao was led by SAPS

NEAL Froneman, CEO of Sibanye-Stillwater said today that the increased incidence of illegal mining in South Africa, perpetrated by people referred to locally as ‘zama-zamas’, required the support of the country’s military.

“It is a tremendous problem. It is very unfortunate that it’s a problem that only gets recognised for the reasons of some young girls being raped. That’s a tragic incident in its own right,” he said.

There was a national outcry after it emerged that eight models were raped on July 28 when a television crew filming a music video at a mine dump near Krugersdorp, west of Johannesburg, was attacked by heavily armed men. A mob subsequently attacked alleged illegal miners with machetes, golf clubs and hammers following the incident. South Africa’s Police Services appeared helpless to intervene throughout.

“The fact that illegal mining is now very visible is in my mind a good outcome,” said Froneman of the outcry. “We should declare a state of emergency and should involve the military,” he said, adding that intervention was required at a high level owing to the sophisticated nature of illegal mining activities.

“We have requested special assistance from the police. It won’t be solved by dealing with the obvious issue of illegal miners; we have to address the syndicates and deal with this internationally, and stop focusing on individuals that are abused at the lower end of illegal mining,” said Froneman.

“We will continue to engage with international organisations; we will continue to engage with the Minerals Council and local institutions that should be dealing with it. And continue to do what we can do as a company to get rid of this scourge,” he said.

DRDGOLD CEO, Niël Pretorius told Miningmx on Wednesday that his company had sought to deal with illegal mining on its east and west Johannesburg operations tactically. “There are crime enclaves that exist with people who don’t hesitate to shoot at staff,” said Pretorius. “As a result we have to be more strategic in a way that is proportional.”

Gold Fields CEO, Chris Griffith said today he could “absolutely understand the frustration and desperation” of other mining companies that tackle illegal mining without support. “We don’t have the same level of risk that other companies face,” he said of his own company’s South African mine, South Deep, but he added that: “there needs to be help [from Government].

“The shape of that help needs to be decided upon between the mining conpanies and the government together”.

Griffith said the zama-zama phenomenon was not restricted to South Africa but it was sometimes dealt with differently. “In many other countries, you do see governments offer more support to mining firms so they can conduct business safely and in a normal fashion. That is not the case everywhere. It is a challenge faced in many countries,” he said.

Said Froneman: “It happens because of a lack of jobs. It’s a poverty issue. It is the manifestation of lower economic growth. It is a big issue and much bigger than the poor illegal miner we continue to arrest”.