Phahlane condemns mass killing of suspected illegal miners

A passerby discovered the first six bodies dumped near a train station in Benoni on Sunday, and eight more were found by police on Monday.

FILE: Acting National Police Commissioner Khomotso Phahlane. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG – Acting National Police Commissioner Khomotso Phahlane has condemned what he calls the senseless murders of 14 people believed to be illegal miners in Benoni on the East Rand.

Six bodies were discovered by a passerby on Sunday dumped in a pattern near a train station.

Another eight bodies were discovered on Monday by police, bringing the number to 14.

Police say preliminary investigations show that the men may have all been killed in the same way.

Phahlane’s spokesperson Athlenda Mathe says, “The acting National Commissioner of Police Khomotso Phahlane condemns, in the strongest terms, the senseless murder of 14 people whose bodies were found in Benoni in Gauteng over the two days.”

At the same time, the Bench Marks Foundation believes a syndicate is involved in the killing of the 14 suspected illegal miners.

Authorities suspect the men were killed by rival illegal miners.

The foundation’s David van Wyk says illegal miners must be formalised in order for the authorities to have some control over the industry.

“The Minerals and Petroleum Resource Development Act allows for small-scale mining. The problem is that the processes involved are too complicated for these guys to understand and organise themselves thereon because many of them are not literate.”

The police’s Lungelo Dlamini has appealed to members of the public to provide the police with information as a matter of urgency.

“We’re appealing to anyone who might have information to contact the nearest police station or phone the Crime Line on 08600 10111 at all hours. All the information will be rewarded.”

He says Benoni has been plagued by illegal miner murders in the past. However, he can’t confirm whether this is the largest mass killing to date.

“We suspect that they might be illegal miners because they engage in illegal activities in the area and in the past we’ve seen other people working in rival gangs.”

On Monday, illegal miners in the area told Eyewitness News that they heard gunshots at a nearby shaft on Sunday.

They warned that so-called rival zama zamas are armed and dangerous.

(Edited by Leeto M Khoza)