More than 60 suspects arrested over the weekend are expected to appear before the Sabie Magistrate's Court today on charges of illegal mining, among other things.
In total, 68 male suspects, aged between 19 and 54, were arrested in connection with illegal mining activities in Mpumalanga.
Amongst them, two were nabbed for human trafficking, meanwhile two others were charged for possession of unlicensed firearms with ammunition, while eight were nabbed for alleged kidnapping.
The successes are part of Operation Shanela in the province, which was carried out at Sabie on Saturday. All arrested suspects are facing charges relating to the contravention of the Immigration Act of South Africa.
According to the police report, the operation was conducted by a team consisting of members of the police from Provincial Organised Crime, members from Sabie Vispol, members from the Local Criminal Record Centre in Lydenburg, Lydenburg K-9 Unit, Department of Home Affairs, Department of Minerals and Resources, personnel from the Emergency Medical Services (EMS), and guards from Phoenix Security and Amandla Security.
An operation was carried out after a victim from Lesotho came to the Sabie police station last month to report a case of kidnapping.
An investigation was thoroughly conducted and information was gathered. The investigating team coordinated and executed a sting operation in the early hours on Saturday.
When members arrived at the site, they managed to arrest the alleged illegal miners, well known as 'zama zamas', where two firearms with ammunition were found amongst the suspects.
The members also nabbed eight individuals, who are suspected to have been behind the kidnapping of the Lesotho national.
A preliminary investigation by the police revealed that two of the suspects are allegedly involved in the human trafficking of people from Lesotho, who were used for illegal mining in Sabie.
Two suspects face charges of human trafficking and more charges could possibly be added against them as the investigation continues.
The investigators are adamant that there could be more criminal activities that these men might be involved in. A probe is underway, where other stakeholders are assisting to ensure that the law take its course.
The confiscated firearms will be taken for ballistic testing to determine whether they were used previously in the commission of crime.
The Provincial Commissioner of the SAPS in Mpumalanga, Lieutenant General Semakaleng Daphney Manamela, has commended the outstanding work that has been done by the collaborative team.
"We are very glad that not only was a huge number of suspects arrested, but two firearms were discovered.
“The issue of illegal mining is a concern in our country and we are happy that the public can see that the state, in conjunction with the private sector, is working hard to address the challenge, hence this success," she said. – SAnews.gov.za