Residents of Riverlea in Johannesburg are facing a serious crisis as zama zamas, illegal mining groups, have completely taken control of the area, leaving the community caught in the crossfire for the past two months.
Recently, the situation escalated with a shootout between two rival zama zama gangs resulting in the tragic death of five people over the weekend as reported by Eyewitness News.
In response to the growing insecurity and lack of protection, frustrated residents took to the streets on Monday, staging protests by blocking roads with burning tyres and rocks, likening their living conditions to a war zone.
These demonstrations drew the attention of Police Minister Bheki Cele, who visited the area on Monday afternoon to assess the situation. He assured the community that specialised teams would be brought in to address the matter.
However, Riverlea community activist, Ulinda Lotz, expressed disappointment at the law enforcement’s delayed response, emphasising that the root of the problem lies in the lack of oversight on rehabilitation and mining sites. She pointed out that mining companies enter their community, leaving behind open mine pits and seemingly no concern for the consequences.
On the other hand, the police’s Athlenda Mathe claimed that progress was being made, citing high-density operations in Laanglagte, including the Zamimpilo and Riverlea areas, with the latest operation taking place the previous Thursday.
Despite the progress claim, Lotz asserted that the community remains in grave danger due to zama zama gun violence. For the past two months, gunshots have become a daily occurrence, and last week, a resident lost his life in the crossfire while returning home. The situation has left the residents living in fear, unable to go outside after 6 pm, and even afraid to go to work, as zama zamas trespass into their yards seeking shelter.
The plight of the Riverlea community highlights the urgent need for effective measures to address the illegal mining activities and violence that have disrupted their lives and safety.
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