Cops positively identify one of 20 zama zamas found in Orkney

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North West police have on Friday made headway in their investigation relating to 20 suspected illegal mineworkers whose bodies were discovered near a used mine shaft in Orkney.

The bodies, wrapped in white bags, were found in two different areas a few kilometres from each other on Monday and Tuesday, six were found outside an abandoned goldmine shaft while the rest were discovered near the railway tracks in Orkney.

Officers have now positively identified at least one of the victims, who is believed to be a Lesotho national.

The men – who are commonly known as zama zamas – were operating in an abandoned gold shaft and were allegedly brought from underground by other illegal miners.

Less than a kilometre from the residential area in this unassuming mining town lies an open veld where the ventilation shaft of the Lawrence Park Mine is situated.

The shaft, which is the only entrance and exit point for illegal miners, is sealed with a tangled barbed wire, but that attempt to keep the zama zama’s at bay has proved futile.

This is where the bodies of six men were found dumped this week, wrapped in a white plastic bag.

As the publication approached the scene, three men wearing balaclavas – each carrying a shot gun – suddenly appeared from the bushes. They were private security.

One of them warns that bullets could come flying from any angle at any time.

“There are people are still inside, it’s just that when you guys came, they were sitting here and making some phone calls. They do come out, but we’re not allowed to have contact with them.”

Meanwhile, police say the bodies were dumped where they were visible to the public.

Spokesperson Adele Myburgh said names and contact details were also inserted in 12 body bags.

“We found tags with names, which we suspect could be those of the deceased inside as well as contact details of their next of kins. Some of the telephone number we got there indicated that they are from Lesotho.”

Myburgh said there was not even at attempt to conceal them.

“The bodies were thrown here, and you would think the suspects would want somebody to find the bodies. As to what happened and where it happened, we still need to clarify it.”

While police are now trying to put together the pieces to find out what happened.

Community members suspect a gas explosion caused by methane underground is what lead to the men’s deaths.

Many there appear unmoved by the recent events, while others are not willing to speak out about illegal mining in the community.

Forensics will be roped in to help make positive identifications.

-EWN

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