Members of the media and Ladies and gentlemen
The Ministers of the Justice Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) Cluster have arranged this media briefing to discuss the progress on combating organised crime including illegal mining in the country. The purpose therefore is to take the citizens into confidence on the work and the operations conducted since 2022.
Crime has been a growing concern for our country as it negatively impacts on the livelihood of citizens, the economy and compromises the safety and security of our people. South Africans have borne the wrath of criminals masquerading in our communities causing disruption in their daily lives. In some parts of our communities’ extortion and protection, fees demanded by criminal syndicates have become the order of the day. Infrastructure mafias continue to destabilise the construction industry through intimidation, threatening of the people’s lives. These and other criminal activities have put fear in our people and undermine the authority of the State.
Government continues to respond to the cries from our people, and is making inroads into destroying criminal syndicates and activities and will leave no stone unturned to make sure that criminals are dealt with harshly and effectively. We will make sure that as the JCPS Cluster we create a safe and secure environment for our people to live.
Since May 2023, the country has adopted an decisive approach in reducing the high levels of crime. It is through Operation Shanela, that the SAPS has successfully arrested two hundred and thirteen thousand and fifty nine (213 059) suspects for various crimes such as cash-in transit robberies, extortion at construction sites and kidnappings in the past six months. During the same period, two thousand six hundred and fifty seven (2 657) illegal and unwanted firearms were confiscated.
Through OPERATION SHANELA, in the past six months, nineteen thousand two hundred and ninety nine (19 299) suspects were arrested for drug possession, and seven thousand five hundred and eighty (7 580) arrested for drug trafficking and dealing.
Cash- in transit (CIT) heists and robberies
We continue to make in-roads in confronting the crimes associated with cash-in transit heists. Police have in the past six months, arrested 75 wanted CIT suspects. The arrests were made during foiled CIT attempts, during the commission of these crimes and during targeted tracing operations.
Through intelligence led operations, these are some of the major take downs achieved.
- In April, a syndicate linked to a number of CIT’s in Gauteng was intercepted in Sebokeng where 11 suspects were shot and killed. Suspects were intercepted before they left a house used as a safe house enroute to commit a CIT.
- 19 CIT suspects were shot and killed in Makhado, Limpopo on Friday, 1st September 2023. The 19 were intercepted at a house in Makhado where they were planning to commit a robbery. This group has been linked to several CIT incidents in Mpumalanga, Gauteng and Limpopo.
In all these crime scenes, explosives, high calibre firearms and ammunition were seized as well as high performance vehicles that were either hijacked or stolen were recovered.
There are increased intelligence led operations at our ports of entry’s and routes leading to and from to address the flow of drugs in the country, as is evident from the recent drug busts.
The latest drug busts are a clear indication that government remains committed to the fight against drug trafficking and that law enforcement is hard at work in identifying emerging trends in the transportation, packaging of these drugs, and closing down of Clandestine laboratories.
It is therefore encouraging that 9 Drug laboratories worth more than three million-rand (R3m) were dismantled in Gauteng, North West and Western Cape.
In a space of three weeks, police have also intercepted large quantities of cocaine in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.
The latest cocaine consignment was seized last week at the sea port in Gqeberha, where R65 million worth of cocaine was seized from a vessel that was coming in from Brazil. Police were following up on intelligence when the seizure was made.
Two other drugs busts were made in KwaZulu Natal where R150 million worth of cocaine was seized in a space of two days. The first drug bust was that of R70 million worth of cocaine that was seized at the Durban Harbour and the second one of R80 million was seized at the Dube Trade Port at the King Shaka International Airport.
Three weeks ago, the SAPS led a destruction of drugs worth an estimated street value of 800 million rand. This was the third drug destruction process in this financial year. These were drugs that were confiscated during day to day policing operations across the country.
These included, cocaine, heroine, mandrax and marijuana.
The most recent destruction was in Cape Town in September where drugs worth 170-million rand were destroyed.
These figures and successes do indicate to us that we are disrupting drug use and the distribution value chain in the country as well as making inroads in winning the fight against drug trafficking.
Extortion at economic and construction sites
Of late, the country has been experiencing sporadic incidents of violence and extortion at economic sites due to demand of 30% share in community projects. Various threats were identified that impact negatively on the economy of the country and in response to these threats, the cluster initiated specific interventions to ensure a safe and secure environments, conducive for social and economic stability and growth.
An Investigative capacity was established in all nine provinces to accelerate and enhance a multidisciplinary approach to address potential and actual criminal incidents.
From April 2023 to date, 61 suspects linked to these extortions were arrested. Since 2019, 27 accused have already been conviction for a collective 43 years direct imprisonment.
Kidnappings for ransom
The DPCI and detectives have dedicated teams that are responsible for tracing and investigating kidnapping cases where ransom demands are being made. These teams main priority is to rescue and reunite kidnapped victims with their families as well as bring to book those responsible for these crimes. From April 2023 to date, 98 suspects have been arrested for these crimes and more than 30 victims have been rescued.
Some of the cases that the team were able to crack was a syndicate targeting the LGBTQI+ community on a dating app. In that operation, an 18-year-old Wits student was rescued and seven suspects arrested.
In October, another syndicate targeting Portuguese businessmen was also traced and nine suspects arrested.
Anti-Gang Unit (AGU)
We continue to deploy our Anti-Gang-Unit members in provinces prone to gang violence such as the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Gauteng. 190 arrests have thus far been effected in 145 cases.
Cross Border Crimes: Emanguzi Intervention
A task team deployed to prevent and combat cross border vehicle smuggling continues to register commendable progress. Since its deployment from the 1st of February this year, more than 140 suspects have been arrested for theft, car hijackings and murder. 64 vehicles have since been recovered and 57 firearms seized. In August, police registered a major breakthrough, when three wanted suspects that have been linked to a spate of vehicle smuggling activities between Mozambique and South Africa were arrested. The trio has also been linked to a crime activist that was executed in February this year.
Combatting illegal mining and related crimes
In the past twelve months, we have witnessed an increase in incidents where illegal miners held communities at ransom, committing various violent crimes including murder, rape and in instances where underground gas explosions caused damage to infrastructure. Illegal mining has also been linked to other organised crimes such as gangsterism, human trafficking, money laundering, dealing in illegal weapons and explosives, tax evasion, illegal immigration and transnational organised crimes. These are serious criminal activities which government views in the most serious light, that threaten our national security thus needs serious intervention, which we are about today.
To deal with these threats to our national security, the National Security Council (NSC) chaired by the President tasked the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NATJOINTS) to conduct a thorough threat analysis of all activities related to mining which includes current legally operated, abandoned and disused mines. The mines that were analysed are in Free State, Gauteng, North West, Limpopo, Northern Cape and Mpumalanga. The analysis conducted by NICOC and NATJOINTS included the value chain of illegal mining (zama-zamas) the regional buyers and runners, the bulk gold buyers, the continental and international dealers and mine workers.
Integrated illegal mining and associated crimes plan
To display our resolve to combat illegal mining and associated crimes, NICOC and JCPS has developed an Integrated Illegal Mining and other crimes intervention plan, which is result-driven and implemented by NATJOINTS. The implementation of this plan involved a number of departments and role-players including SAPS, SSA, DMRE, Home Affairs, DOJ & CD, COGTA, Human Settlements, Social Development, Department of Environmental Affairs, Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), South African Revenue Services (SARS), Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC), Asset Forfeiture Unit, SANDF and Border Management Authority (BMA).
Arrests and prosecutions related to illegal mining
To date, twenty eight (28) intelligence-driven operations, three hundred and sixty (360) disruptive operations, three hundred and sixty (360) simultaneous roadblocks, one hundred and thirty (130) joint Spaza operations, one hundred and eight (108) restaurant joint operations, four (4) hotel operations, three hundred and fifty three (353) compliance inspections and forty eight (48) borderline operations have been conducted.
To date four thousand and sixty seven (4 067) suspects have been arrested on various illegal mining related charges.
The National Intervention Team deployed in Mpumalanga to deal with Illegal mining and Eskom energy crisis, resulted in the arrest of 67 illegal miners with mining equipment worth R180 million and coal worth R12 million seized.
Between April and August 2023 a total of 329 accused were convicted of offences related to illicit mining.
During the same period, we had 7 351 cases in which accused were convicted of contraventions of the Immigrations Act. As of this Wednesday, 7 November 2023, a total of 4 068 cases containing contraventions of the Immigrations Act are pending before court.
Among the arrested suspects, are sixty three (63) South Africans and two thousand seven hundred and thirty nine (2 739) Foreign Nationals from Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho, DRC, Nigeria, Kenya, Pakistan and Uganda. These arrests indicate the multinational nature of illegal mining. It must be clearly stated that anyone who comes into conflict with the laws of the RSA shall be dealt with harshly according to our criminal justice system, irrespective whether that person is a citizen or a foreign national.
Over and above the arrests, from January to March 2023, the DPCI and AFU seized at least 15 vehicles, issued fourteen (14) freezing orders to the value of sixteen million nine hundred and twenty seven (R16,927 million) and two (2) forfeitures to the value of one million nine hundred rand (R1.9 million). From April to October 2023, twelve (12) freezing orders were obtained to the value of sixteen million six hundred (R16.6million) and one forfeiture to the value of six hundred and seventy thousand rands (670 thousand rands).
Sealing of illegal mines and shafts
Across South Africa country, there are six thousand, one hundred (6 100) derelict and ownerless mines. Some of these mines are old and the owners cannot be traced. There are one thousand one hundred and seventy (1 170) mine openings nationally and in Gauteng there are five hundred and eighteen (518). DMRE is going to rehabilitate three (3) mines and has closed 40 mine openings per year and conducting research. The department has plans to deal with this issue over a period of time.
Legislation and regulation framework review
To enhance and strengthen the law enforcement agencies to deal with illegal mining and associated crimes, several laws are under review. This will enable law enforcement to close all possible loopholes that can be used by these criminal syndicates.
Goals and the role of provinces
NATJOINTS has set short, medium and long term goals to arrest the situation. Part of the short to medium term goals is to stabilise the situation by deploying teams in identified problematic areas. After which the task teams will move into a normalisation period.
In a similar fashion, Provincial Joints have been activated to deal with illegal mining and conduct regular operations. In order to further bolster the fight against illegal mining, President Ramaphosa has authorised the employment of members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) for service in cooperation with the South African Police Service to prevent and combat crime and maintain and preserve law and order under Operation Prosper.
Members of the SANDF will in cooperation with the South African Police Service, conduct an intensified anti-criminality operation against illegal mining across all provinces.
Ladies and gentlemen
Communities have an important role to play in combatting organised crime and illegal mining. Communities have responsibility of exposing illegal miners and report them to law enforcement agencies. Be sure that you are not assisting the criminals because you may find yourself on the wrong side of the law.