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City's clampdown on illegal miners over water use 

Two City of Johannesburg entities - the Johannesburg Roads Agency (JRA) and Johannesburg Water (JW) - as well as the South African Police Service (SAPS) on Thursday December 22 embarked on a campaign in Matholeville, near Roodepoort, on the West Rand to raise awareness among illegal miners on the impact of illegal water usage on the City’s overall water supply.

The illegal miners, known as zama zamas, use the water to process illegally procured gold. There are more than 2 000 illegal miners in Matholeville. Many come from Lesotho, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

Gold is extracted illegally from mine shafts that are no longer in operation. According to the SAPS, there are six open mine shafts in the area. 

 Once the rocks have been brought to the surface, water connected illegally is used on slabs called James Tables to wash it. When that process is concluded, the gold is burnt over coals and is ready for sellers.

Conel Mackay, JRA’s Infrastructure Protection Manager, said the operation was aimed at informing residents that illegal miners were abusing water and committing a crime.

“It is really about highlighting water wastage. We have brought all stakeholders on board. Water is being diverted illegally for this purpose and residents are now experiencing reduced supplies. If we can bring illegal use of water down, then we’ll be able to bring this scourge under control,” said Mackay.

Isaac Sithole from Zimbabwe has been mining in the area illegally for two months. “We don’t usually sell the gold ourselves. There are people who come and collect the gold. They then take it to dealers in the Johannesburg CBD. Our job is to dig and process it,” said Sithole.

Twenty-nine-year-old mother of two Tsitsi Maposa, 29, also from Zimbabwe, started working as an illegal miner in September 2014. “My day starts at 6.30am and ends at 4pm. I usually charge R100 for my services as a grinder,” said Maposa.