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One dead as Kagiso residents protest against illegal miners

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POLICE confirmed on Thursday morning that a Kagiso shutdown is underway and warned members of the public to avoid the whole of the West Rand townships.

The police have also confirmed the death of one person during the early morning protest.

Protesters took to the streets on Thursday morning August 4, blocking entrances and exit routes in the township.

Residents have taken to the streets to call for an end to illegal mining, which they claim is the root cause of the high levels of crime in the area.

They claim that the police have failed them.

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

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 terrorizing us. We cannot simply walk around the neighborhood at night because they rape us,” said Nhlanhla Felatsi, who was part of the protest. “We recently had an incident where two female security officers were raped by the same people. The police are not protecting us.”

Over 100 alleged illegal miners have been arrested following the gang rapes in Krugersdorp last week.

At least 80 suspects arrested in the wake of the gang rape appeared in the Krugersdorp Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday.

The 80 men were arrested in a police sweep at the scene of the alleged rape, but were not charged for rape.

The men, who were represented by Legal Aid, faced charges which included illegal mining, contravention of section 49 of the Immigration Act, unlawful use of explosives and firearms and possible attempted murder.

They are expected to return to court again on 10 August 2022, for their bail hearing.

Illegal mining gangs are considered dangerous by the police, are usually armed and are known to fight violent turf battles with rival groups. The trade is believed to be dominated by immigrants who enter illegally from neighboring countries Lesotho, Zimbabwe and Mozambique and police said that some of the men suspected of raping the eight women were foreign nationals.

That has aggravated the situation and comes at a time when South Africa is seeing an upsurge in xenophobic attacks sparked by locals blaming foreigners for crime in their areas.

“What upsets me is that we live as though we are not South Africans. How can someone from nowhere come and control us in our community?” said Kagiso resident Thoko Setlhabi. “The people from Lesotho and Zimbabwe are coming into our houses and rape us. You must make sure you and your family are indoors by 6 p.m. When will our children be allowed to be free?”

Police say they are still analyzing DNA evidence in order to link some of the suspects to the rapes. But residents have criticized the local police force for doing nothing despite warnings from locals that illegal miners were operating in the area as part of larger crime syndicates.

“We are not fighting only against the zama-zamas (illegal miners), but we are fighting against the entire crime. Our police must stand up, our police must pull up their socks,” said Kabelo Matlou, a local government official.

“Clearly something is wrong here. If somebody takes out gold here, where are they taking it? Our political leaders must come together and sort this out,” he said.

STAFF REPORTER| Additional reporting by AP

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