Members of a Florida community were forced to sleep at the local police station after they allegedly came under attack from illegal miners in their community.
The 30 community members of the Jerusalema informal settlement in Florida fled to the local police station in Florida after zama-zamas engaged in a turf war, striking fear in residents.
The City of Johannesburg’s Safety MMC, Dr Mgcini Tshwaku, along with the specialised unit of the Joburg Metro Police JMPD, descended on the police station, and the station commander was called to the scene and duly allowed the group to spend a night at the police station.
The local SA Police Services (SAPS) in Florida, according to Tshwaku, said it did not have enough manpower to conduct a swift operation on Friday night.
"A group of scared residents sought refuge at the Florida police station, fearing for their lives amid the prevailing atmosphere of violence," said Tshwaku.
He said the JMPD specialised unit, SAPS, and the Community Policing Forum would work together to put an end to the violence caused by zama-zamas.
He said it appeared as if the zama-zamas were shooting each other at about 9pm in the Zamimpilo area, where the JMPD and SAPS had conducted an operation against illegal mining recently, causing one death.
He said some of the zama-zamas fled towards the Durban Deep and Jerusalema areas, causing panic among the residents. The SAPS said it was not aware of the alleged shooting.
"We acted with speed as soon as we received the news of the shootings because we understand the urgency and the need for immediate action to address these distressing incidents that have shaken the community of Jerusalema.
"We will not rest until our communities are safe and free from crime and violence from zama-zamas," said Tshwaku.
Gauteng police spokesperson Colonel Dimakatso Nevhuhulwi said the provincial police commissioner, Lieutenant General Elias Mawela, has assured the community of Jerusalema that law enforcement agencies were on the ground working together to restore calm in that area, amid fears of safety aggravated by violence associated with illegal mining activities.
Police confirmed that a group of 30 people went to Florida police station seeking refuge after they alleged that they were afraid of the zama-zamas within their community.
"The Department of Social Development was called in to assist, and the group has since returned to their homes. There is no confirmation of any shooting incident, as initially reported.
"Over and above Operation Shanela, operations in collaboration with different law enforcement agencies are regularly conducted in that area to disrupt illegal mining activities," said Nevhuhulwi.
Police said several suspects have been arrested in the past two weeks in the Florida area for contravening the Immigration Act, possession of gold-bearing material, possession of unlicensed firearms, and possession of suspected stolen property.
They said zama-zama's tools of trade, such as phendukas and generators, have also been seized.
"The police will continue to conduct operations together with all relevant stakeholders with the aim of combating and disrupting illegal mining activities not only in Florida but in all affected districts in Gauteng; Ekurhuleni, West Rand, Sedibeng and Johannesburg," said Nevhuhulwi.
On Friday, operations with SAPS were continuing in the Jerusalema community.