South African miners beat, torch fire camps

81
3
South African miners beat, torch fire camps

After arresting more than 80 men in connection with the gang rapes of eight women last week, protesters in South Africa beat suspected illegal miners with sticks and set fire to their camps.

Residents of Krugersdorp's Kagiso township — on the western edges of Johannesburg — also barricaded roads with rocks and burning tyres during a protest against the presence of the miners.

They blamed the illegal miners and the failure of the police to deal with it because they were frustrated with high levels of crime.

Some suspected illegal miners were stripped of their clothes and whipped by residents, who chased others out of their camps and beat and kicked them before handing them over to police.

The police responded by firing rubber bullets and stun grenades to disperse the protesters who also clashed with police officers.

In some cases, officers rescued the people being attacked.

We want support from the police because the illegal miners are terrorising us. One of the protesters, Nhlanhla Felatsi, said we can't just walk around the neighbourhood at night because they rape us.

We recently had an incident where two female security officers were raped by the same people. The police are not protecting us. The eight women were raped when a television crew filming a music video at a mine dump was attacked by heavily armed men, some suspected of being illegal miners.

The authorities said they were investigating 32 counts of rape.

Even for a country used to high levels of violent crime, such as South Africa, the attack was a shocking incident.

More than 80 men accused of being involved in gang rapes appeared in court on Monday.

In South Africa, illegal mining is rife, with miners known as zama-zamas looking for gold at the many abandoned mines in and around the Johannesburg region.

Usually armed and known to fight violent turf battles with rival groups, illegal mining gangs are considered dangerous by the police.

The trade is believed to be dominated by immigrants who enter illegally from neighbouring countries Lesotho, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique, and police say that some of the men suspected of raping the eight women are foreign nationals.

That has exacerbated the situation, and comes at a time when South Africa is seeing an increase in xenophobic attacks, sparked by locals blaming foreigners for crimes in their areas.

What upsets me is that we are not South Africans. How can someone from nowhere control us in our community? Kagiso resident Thoko Setlhabi said.

The people from Lesotho and Zimbabwe are coming into our houses and raping us. When will our children be allowed to be free? They are still analysing DNA evidence to try to link some of the suspects to the rapes.

Residents have criticised the local police for not doing anything despite the warnings from locals that illegal miners were operating in the area as part of larger crime syndicates.

Local government official Kabelo Matlou said that police must stand up, and the police must pull up their socks because they are not fighting only against the zama-zamas.

There is something wrong here. Where can I get gold if someone takes it? He said that our political leaders had to come together to sort this out.