by Andrew Louw – DA Northern Cape Provincial Leader
Error! Filename not specified.
Date: 27 August 2018
The Democratic Alliance (DA) in the Northern Cape is saddened by the deaths of two miners in Kleinsee, who were killed last night in an illegal mining operation after the makeshift tunnel in which they were mining, caved in on them.
Just a week ago, the DA wrote to Provincial Police Commissioner, Lt-Gen Rismati Shivuri, asking him to address the safety issues relating to the illegal mining.
In July, the DA also warned of an impending tragedy, given the surge of illegal diamond mining in Namaqualand. This is a process that has continued unabated, despite having come under the spotlight more than six years ago, after the Bontekoe mining tragedy that killed ten people when an illicit tunnel collapsed on illegal diggers at Kleinsee.
While the DA does not condone criminality, we also cannot allow unnecessary deaths to occur unabated in the illegal mining industry.
Years of inefficient regulation of the mining industry, and in turn retrenchments and mine closures, have ultimately left a tragic legacy of unemployment in Namaqualand, exacerbating the illegal diamond mining industry.
At any given time, at least 50 cars are parked next to the mining area, with approximately 80 – 100 people actively digging there. At times, there is a further increase in activity and between 300-400 people can be found mining there.
Some diggers excavate shallow pits in disused mining areas, while others take greater risks and burrow unsafe tunnels beneath the walls of old mine pits, retrieving sacks of gravel to sieve and rinse. Much of the illegal digging takes place at night, which increases the danger of diggers falling into holes.
Safety of the community and the police officers themselves is also a concern. Residents feel unsafe as miners make fires in the residential area to cook, use the open space as a toilet and litter the area. Staff at the Springbok police station, meanwhile, have complained that they are severely under-resourced and only have about 17 police officers in Kleinsee.
The DA will send an urgent follow-up letter to Shivuri, calling for urgent intervention, including the deployment of additional police to patrol the area and to enforce the law.
We will also reiterate our call to Mineral Resources Minister, Gwede Mantashe, to stop turning a blind eye to the Namaqualand crisis and convene an urgent meeting with all stakeholders, including land owners, legal miners, illegal diamond miners and the police. The fact of the matter is that illegal diamond mining exists.
Government and the authorities need to plot a way forward that will not only secure the safety of communities, the police and the miners but also find a way to curb illegal diamond mining and instead harness the potential of legal artisanal diamond mining.
Only change under a DA-led government will ensure that the diamond mining is transformed into a vibrant industry, that can create jobs, benefit all our people and not serve as a threat to society.
DA Northern Cape Provincial Leader
082 383 6914
Shelley De Witt
082 847 1387