South Africa: Two Illegal Miners Sentenced to an Effective 45 Years' Imprisonment

press release

Odendaalrus — Office of the Provincial Commissioner Free State

Two men will each serve an effective 45 years term of imprisonment thanks to the relentless efforts through Operation Vala Umgodi to curb illegal mining in the Free State.

On Monday, 20 April 2020 at about 23:30, the Tactical Response Team (TRT) of Bloemfontein received information about illegal miners, also known as Zama Zamas, who were busy extracting gold-bearing material at the Kudu old mine plant mine.

Upon arrival at the Old Mine, suspects started to shoot at the police, and the SAPS members retaliated and three Lesotho nationals were fatally shot and two sustained injuries and were admitted to Bongani in Welkom and Pelonomi in Bloemfontein hospitals.

Five 9mm firearms and live ammunition were recovered and seized. Later, two suspects from hospitals, Taelo Manuel Mmereko (39) and Koketso Azaih Futho (39), both Lesotho national, were charged with three counts of murder (common purpose), two counts of attempted murder, possession of illegal firearms and ammunition and illegal immigration.

The duo was found guilty as charged and sentenced on 10 June 2024 in the Odendaalsrus Regional Court.

They were sentenced as follows:

Three counts of murder: 15 years' of direct imprisonment each.

Three counts of attempted murder: five years' of direct imprisonment each.

Illegal immigration: the two accused were sentenced to two years' of direct imprisonment.

The two accused will each serve a 45 years of effective term of imprisonment.

Members of the Bloemfontein Tactical Response Team who effected the arrests and Detective Sergeant Molebatsi of Provincial Organised Crime Unit who conducted a thorough investigation were applauded for the excellent work done.

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