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Johannesburg - The execution-style killing of eight illegal miners at a disused Benoni mine could be linked to rival gangs in pursuit of easy money.
The brazen gang stripped their victims of all their belongings, emptying their pockets of the little cash they may have had and even taking their overalls.
“This was clearly a robbery.
“Usually, in cases like this, we find passports, cellphones, bags containing clothes and cash with the victims or any other form of identification.
“In this case, the police found nothing that could help them with their investigations. Everything was gone,” said a source close to the investigations.
No arrests have been made, but the police were hopeful they would track down the gunmen who attacked the illegal miners while they were digging for gold on Friday.
“So far, no one has been arrested, but we do have some leads,” said Gauteng SAPS spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Lungelo Dlamini.
Eight bodies were recovered, but Dlamini said there was a possibility this number could increase as the investigation continued.
Yesterday, The Star spoke to a survivor, Thabang Makwayi, who gave a detailed account of the gunfight.
“We were digging for gold when I suddenly heard multiple gunshots. The shooting started at about 11am on Friday.
“I ran away and hid at a place we call madala side – (Fanagalo for an area that does not have gold anymore).
“I hid there until late at night. I only managed to leave the mineshaft after 11 and got a taxi to Etwatwa, where I live.”
The dead miners included Tumisang Molomo, whose killer forced a gun into his mouth and pulled the trigger.
Makwayi returned to the mine on Sunday with the police and Molomo’s relatives.
The dead man’s body was brought to the surface and taken to a mortuary.
Several illegal miners joined in the search.
The police recovered another body near the mine shaft.
This miner was shot in the back.
Dlamini said the police recovered the bodies of four illegal miners on Saturday.
Another was recovered about 100m away. He had multiple gunshot wounds. He too was running away from his attackers.
A source close to the investigation said the first four men were found with their hands tied behind their backs.
“All of them had gunshots to their heads,” he said.
He said there had been 10 other execution-style killings in the past.
The police had to call in a specialised unit investigating illegal mining and the killings to retrieve the eighth body, which was trapped underground on Sunday.
Ayanda Shezi, spokeswoman for the Department of Mineral Resources, said this morning illegal mining was a “serious concern”.
“We will continue to work with all the stakeholders, especially law enforcement agencies, to ensure criminals are apprehended and illegal mining is curbed,” said Shezi.
Shezi said she did not know whether these murders would spur the department on to establish a task team to focus on violence between illegal miners.