Johannesburg - Increasing crime and the fear that their houses would collapse drove a group of residents to hold several illegal miners hostage on Saturday.
Residents of Goud Rand in Durban Deep, outside Roodepoort, grabbed the miners just as they were about to head underground in the morning.
Witnesses said residents of this middle-class suburb demanded to know who the miners’ kingpins were.
They also threatened to burn their vehicles when they arrived to collect bags of gold ore that were meant to be picked up.
The residents also demanded the immediate closure of some of the tunnels leading into the old Durban Deep shaft, then forced three of the miners to close some of these openings.
“We are tired of these people,” said a resident who identified himself only as Thapelo. “The government and police are not assisting in this problem. That is why we are doing it ourselves.”
He said the miners were stubborn and aggressive when approached.
The residents later allowed the miners to leave, but tension was still simmering on Sunday between the Goud Rand community and the Zama Zamas (illegal miners).
“We have children playing in our streets. It is too risky for them to be playing in an area that has big holes. These people don’t want to listen,” said Thapelo.
He added that the miners took them for granted and claimed they were fools who walked away from money.
“They say we are stupid. But it is they who become fools when their bodies are discovered. These people have destroyed our area and we have no one stopping them. That is why we are confronting them,” Thapelo said.
Residents said they could hear the miners working beneath their houses at night and they feared their houses could soon collapse. It is sometimes so noisy, they battled to sleep.
They also blamed the miners for stealing copper cables from a nearby power substation that has since stopped operating.
“It is unsafe to walk around here after 7pm. People are being mugged and house burglaries are increasing,” said Thapelo.
Community-based animal care organisation CLAW, which is based in Durban Deep, has also become a victim of cable theft.
“We are being forced to move and operate in Krugersdorp. This has also affected pet owners travelling from far and using public transport to reach us. How are they going to reach Krugersdorp?” asked CLAW’s Cora Bailey.
She said they had reported the matter to Roodepoort police, but no action had been taken.
The welfare organisation attends to at least 1 000 pets a month.
On Sunday, just before noon, nine emergency cases had already been reported.
Provincial police referred The Star to the Hawks for comment. However, Hawks spokesman Paul Ramaloko was unavailable for comment.