by Andrew Louw – DA Northern Cape Provincial Leader
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Date: 12 September 2018
The Democratic Alliance in the Northern Cape is calling on National Minister of Police, Bheki Cele to urgently send additional manpower to Kleinzee in Namaqualand, to help restore safety and order in the coastal diamond town.
This comes amidst a concerning boom in illegal diamond mining in the area that is seeing hundreds of miners moving in and setting up base in the quiet town on the skeleton coast.
According to residents, busloads of people from the Western Cape have been ferried into the area to come and sift for diamonds. Miners who work in the Kathu mines, are also being brought in on their off days, to work in shifts. In fact, in the course of this week alone, at least 500 vehicles and 1000 people, participating in illegal diamond mining activity, could be counted at a time.
Miners are carrying bags of gravel away with them, setting up sifting points on the towns beaches and even in its salt pans. They are also sleeping along the beach. There are no ablution facilities and illegal miners have been entering the properties of residents, when they are not at home. In the past week, there have also been break-ins at the local school and the gun club.
It’s a free for all and residents are feeling unsafe.
The picture has changed significantly from one of desperate locals, placing their lives at risk in unsafe tunnels to put bread on the table, to a massive showdown of orchestrated crime syndicates, who are now taking advantage of the under-policed diamond rich area.
This comes just more than two weeks, after two illegal diamond miners died after the tunnel from which they were collecting gravel to sieve, fell in on them.
The illegal mining poses a danger to the lives of miners and residents, it is also a risk to the environment, as no one is accountable for rehabilitation of the land. On top of this, blood diamonds are a threat to the legitimate diamond market and, in effect, the already damaged South African economy.
The DA has already called on Minister of Mineral Resources, Gwede Mantashe, to urgently intervene in the Namaqualand diamond crisis to see how best to promote artisanal mining instead of criminality. We have also called on Provincial Police Commissioner, Rismati Shivuri, to also assist with beefing up initiatives to ensure the safety of miners and residents alike.
The DA will now escalate our call to Cele, asking him to prioritize crime prevention and safety initiatives in Kleinzee, as the local SAPS currently only has a staff contingent of 17 police officers. This is completely inadequate to deal with the influx of illegal miners.
This is critical until such time as Minister Mantashe eventually decides to involve himself in the Namaqualand diamond crisis. It is also critical to restore law and order now, before we end up with another Marikana on our hands.
Only change under a DA-led government will ensure that illegal mining is eradicated and replaced with regulated artisanal mining, that does not pose a threat to society or to the economy, and benefits all.