A GROUP of 87 alleged illegal miners appeared briefly in the Orkney Magistrate’s Court near Klerksdorp in North West on Wednesday, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said.
Henry Mamothame, the NPA spokesperson in North West, said the case against the group was postponed to March 2 for investigation and would be heard at the regional court for trial.
“Following the completion of the status verification of these miners it was established that all 87 had no legal documents to be in South Africa and as such they are illegal. They have abandoned their bail application,” he said.
The men, all from Lesotho, are facing charges of attempted murder, illegal possession of prohibited firearms and ammunition, illegal possession of gold, theft and conspiracy to commit an offence.
They were arrested in an intelligence-driven operation on October 20 at Shaft 2 in Orkney.
During the arrest, six illegal miners – better known as zama zamas – were gunned down and eight injured following a shootout with members of the Special Task Force assisted by Hawks Organised Crime in North West.
Of the eight who were wounded during the shootout, seven have been discharged from hospital and only one was still under police guard receiving medical attention. The court proceeded in his absence.
Two minibus taxis, illegal mining paraphernalia, gold-bearing material, 11 Illegal firearms and bags of food were seized during the arrest.
In June bodies of 20 suspected zama zamas were found wrapped in plastic in various locations in Orkney. They had suffered severe body burns.
The police found pieces of paper on some of the bodies with names and phone numbers which they believed would help them track relatives and identify the deceased.