Freeman Razemba, Harare Bureau
South African police have arrested four suspects, all Lesotho nationals, in connection with the recent killing of 14 illegal miners, some suspected to be Zimbabweans.
The miners were recently shot dead in Benoni, about 20 kilometres outside Johannesburg.
The latest development comes after the South African police set up a team of detectives to investigate the matter.
It is suspected that the murders were as a result of vicious fights over gold claims.
Six bodies were found on March 5, while the other eight bodies were discovered the following day near Golden Drive and New Modder Road.
According to media reports, at least three Zimbabweans were suspected to be part of the 14 illegal miners killed.
In a statement on their website, SAPS Acting National Police Commissioner Khomotso Phahlane, confirmed the arrests. “In relation to the fourteen bodies that were found on the 5th and 6th of March in the vicinity of a railway line in Benoni, we have also made a significant breakthrough with the arrest of four people,” he said.
“We can confirm that the suspects are all Lesotho nationals. One of the suspects was arrested in South Africa and three others were found in Lesotho. We are at this stage in talks with Interpol to expedite extradition processes.”
Comm Phahlane said unlicensed fire-arms found in the suspects’ possession in Lesotho were subjected to forensic analysis. “We would like to encourage anyone with information to come forward and assist the South African Police Service in bringing the perpetrators of both crimes to book,” Comm Phahlane said.
Police in South Africa this week said investigations showed the victims were either stabbed to death or shot.
The area is known to be frequented by foreigners who engage in illegal mining.
Meanwhile, 22 illegal miners who were operating in Free State, South Africa were convicted for a two-year operation in which they stole R120 million worth of gold from a disused mine. According to reports, the men were sentenced this week after they were found guilty of 577 charges of racketeering‚ money laundering‚ contravention the Precious Metals Act and the Criminal Procedure Act.
They were also charged for trespassing and under the Immigration Act, as well as theft of over R120 million from the Masimong Mine outside Welkom.
Hawks spokesman Captain Philani Nkwalase said the ringleader Lovemore Chaba Mlambo (35) was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment along with his fellow syndicate Simon Mashava Cremora (38), who was given a 23-year prison sentence. He said fellow syndicate members Ronnie Hlongwane Aaron Chauke (37)‚ Thomas Mauvu (32)‚ Tsepo Mashaba (30)‚ Ernest Raas Mahlako (40) and Matias Patric Sibizwa (27) were sentenced to 22 years imprisonment each‚ while the remaining members of the group were given 20 years imprisonment each.