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Johannesburg - Police shot and injured an illegal miner after they took his bag of crushed ore in Durban Deep, Roodepoort.
Witnesses to the shooting claim the police took the bag and were going to sell it to other illegal miners.
They also said a policeman shot the man without warning.
However, police said the officer was confiscating the ore and had fired into the ground as a warning.
Witnesses to the shooting told The Star that a police van and an unmarked VW Jetta had arrived last Tuesday at the site near Durban Deep, where illegal miners process gold in the ore.
A woman working at the site at the time said: “They walked up here and said to us, ‘what are you doing here?’ They then said, ‘we don’t need your money, we have come to attack you people’.”
She didn’t want to give her name as she feared she would be victimised.
A policeman grabbed a bag of crushed ore from one of the miners, she said. “The policeman put the soil (the ore) in the Jetta and the man ran after him saying ‘I need my soil, I always pay you’,” the witness said.
Then, according to her, the policeman pulled out his gun and shot the man in one of his knees. The two vehicles then left.
A little while later, a second van arrived with an ambulance. The police collected the spent cartridge.
“Members of the community started throwing stones,” said another witness, who gave his name as Lucky.
Police spokeswoman Captain Lydia Mtila-Dikolomela said the officers from Roodepoort police station were confiscating the ore.
“The community started throwing stones at them. The officers asked them to stop, and fired a shot into the ground, but the bullet ricocheted and hit the member of the community in the leg,” she said.
A 30-year-old man was arrested.
Mtila-Dikolomela said the man had been charged with possession of gold-bearing ore.
The police also laid a charge of intimidation against the community. The community on Tuesday opened a case of attempted murder at Roodepoort police station.
Witnesses claimed this was not the first time police had collected bribes or taken bags of crushed ore.
There were usually no arrests when this happened, they said.
Illegal miners in a neighbouring area said they also had instances of police taking their bags of crushed ore.
“This has been happening for about a year now. They tell us to go and then they take our soil,” said one illegal miner, who goes by the name of Wisdom.
A bag of good-quality crushed ore could hold as much as 15g of gold when processed, he said. The going rate for a gram of ore was R350.
Mtila-Dikolomela said that, if true, the matter must be investigated.