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North West court sentences illegal miners to 696 years in jail

A group of illegal miners were sentenced to a combined 696 years imprisonment.

File - The group of illegal miners when they appeared in the Stilfontein Magistrate's Court late last year. They have now been sent to jail. Picture: Hawks

Published Apr 1, 2023


Rustenburg - A group of 87 illegal miners were sentenced to a combined 696 years imprisonment in the Regional Court in Stilfontein near Klerksdorp in North West.

The men, all from Lesotho, were sentenced on Thursday after they pleaded guilty on Tuesday.

"All accused who have been in custody since their arrest, pleaded guilty to charges of robbery with aggravating circumstances on March 28, 2023 and they were resultantly sentenced to eight years direct imprisonment," said Captain Tlangelani Rikhotso, Hawks spokesperson in North West.

They abandoned their bail application after their status verification was completed and it was established that all 87 had no legal documents to be in South Africa and as such they were illegal.

They were arrested in an intelligence-driven operation on October 20 in 2021 at Shaft 2 in Orkney.

During the arrest six illegal miners were gunned down and eight injured, following a shootout with members of the Special Task Force, assisted by Hawks Organised Crime in North West.

Two minibus taxis, illegal mining paraphernalia, gold-bearing material, 11 illegal firearms, about 4 000 cartridges of ammunition and bags of food were seized.

In a separate case, the Hawks said convicted businessman, Karabo Phungula, 37, was sentenced to 15 years direct imprisonment for cyber fraud, and declared unfit to possess a firearm.

The State charged that Phungula not only fraudulently obtained data, but also planned to sell it for over R4 million.

Experian handed over the data of over 23 million people and nearly 800 000 businesses to Phungula, who impersonated a businessman who was authorised to have the information.

Experian detected the breach on July 22, 2020, more than 50 days after the data had already been transferred.

Phungula failed to appear in court on three occasions for sentencing, and in one instance he explained that he failed to appear due to an asthma attack, resulting in constant shortness of breath.

"Phungula appeared in the Palmridge Specialised Commercial Crimes Court on March 28 and 29, 2023 where he was found guilty and subsequently sentenced.

"Phungula was convicted by the same court in October 2022 following his arrested in September 2021 on charges of fraud and contravention of the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act. The Hawks meticulous probe revealed that he illegally obtained personal and business data of many South Africans from a data services firm, Experian," said Lieutenant Colonel Philani Nkwalase.