Tebogo Msimanga |
The Stilfontein Magistrates’ Court postponed the case against 21 suspected illegal miners to 15 February 2023, for formal bail application and further investigations. The attorney representing six of the accused requested a postponement to prepare for the bail application and the state did not oppose it.
North West NPA spokesperson Henry Mamothame said it has been verified that two of the applicants are from Lesotho, one from Swaziland and three are South African citizens. One accused is still out on R5000 bail, while fourteen others have no interest in applying for bail.
Their court appearance emanates from a well-executed operation on 10 October 2022, by the North West Hawks’ Serious Organised Crime Investigation, assisted by members of the Hawks’ Tactical Management Section, Special Task Force, National Intervention Unit, District Illegal Mining Task Team, Tactical Response Team, Bidvest Protea Coin, and Harmony Gold mine, when they embarked on an early morning raid at a mine shaft in Stilfontein.
According to the Hawks, the operation follows weeks of surveillance into the alleged illegal mining activities of the suspects resulting in the arrest of twenty-one (21)suspects, and the seizure of fifteen (15) AK47s, six (6) hunting rifles, two (2) shotguns and one (1) R5, boxes full of ammunition, explosives, and an undisclosed amount of money. Accused 21, arrested at his home and currently applying for bail, is suspected of transporting food and goods to illegal miners while on site. His vehicle was also seized.
Mamothame further said the state is studying the docket’s preliminary charges of conspiracy to commit robbery, possession of prohibited firearms, possession of ammunition and contravention of the immigration act, and not ruling out a possibility of adding more charges. Investigations are still underway. Twenty of these suspects will remain in police custody until the next court appearance.