DA urges national intervention for illegal mining in Johannesburg

Joint Press Statement by Cllr. Tyrell Meyers and Soloman Maila, DA Councillors, in the City of Johannesburg

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in the City of Johannesburg expresses grave concerns over the rising trend of illegal mining in Johannesburg, and demands urgent action from the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Mr Gwede Mantashe.

Despite the DA’s calls to the National Government in 2017, and repeated calls since, no action has been taken by the National Department of Police or the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy. Unsurprisingly, the impact on residents and infrastructure has been devastating.

The continued neglect of this issue by the National Government has led to the appearance of sudden sinkholes and placed residents in nearby communities at risk. On July 26, 2023, for instance, the JRA had to close one lane of the Miles Stoker Road in Roodepoort because of a sinkhole caused by illegal mining activities.

The Riverlea area has experienced a surge in illegal mining over recent weeks, with gunshots becoming a nightmarish regularity. Two days ago, an innocent resident, Ernest Mangena, lost his life to a stray bullet during a gunfight allegedly between rival illegal miners (Zama-Zamas) and members of the South African Police Service (SAPS). A growing number of similar cases remain unsolved, raising questions about the competence or willingness of the SAPS to serve and protect the people of Riverlea.

Adding to the mining problem, the area has seen an escalation in serious and violent crimes, particularly in the Horseshoe area of Riverlea, a 50-year-old township roughly 9km southwest of Johannesburg’s central business district. The adjacent Zamimpilo informal settlement, within the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality, has become a hotspot for illegal mining, mostly by armed foreign nationals. The continual sound of gunfire has left residents living in fear – effectively imprisoning them in their own homes.

Frustrated and fearful, the Riverlea community held a public meeting to discuss measures against the relentless gun violence associated with these Zama-Zamas. The residents resolved to blockade the township and demand government action against the Zamimpilo informal settlement. Residents are now threatening to take matters into their own hands if their demands are not met. This volatile situation is one of national government’s creation.

The DA will write to Minister Mantashe to demand immediate intervention and shut down the illegal mining shafts in and around Riverlea that have become a source of serious and violent crime. It is clear that National Government lacks the political will to take action, but should they continue down this path, they will have more blood on their hands.