We did not start veld fires - miners
WHILE veld fires on the outskirts of Kimberley continue to burn, the Kimberley Artisanal Mine Workers (KAMW) has denied allegations that its members set the grass alight as part of a protest against Kimberley Ekapa Mining Joint Venture.
Chairman of the KAMW, Lucky Seekoei, yesterday pointed fingers at clandestine elements, who he said were being paid to infiltrate and sabotage the illegal miners’ efforts to be granted permission to operate legally.
Seekoei also denied that it had been the illegal miners who had started the veld fires, which continued to burn yesterday, posing a threat to property and livestock in the vicinity.
The fires were yesterday also threatening to encroach on residential areas.
Seekoei said he believed that the veld fires may well have been started in an effort to undermine attempts by the illegal miners to see their trade legitimised.
“We do not know who started these fires but we believe that the arson was committed by other people trying to make us look bad,” he said.
“We know that there are those who are being paid to infiltrate us and gather information on the miners and our activities and we believe it is these same elements who are starting the fires and blaming us in order to sabotage our operations.
“I don’t know of any of our miners that did anything of this nature and we are not responsible for any of the damage that these fires are causing.”
Sol Plaatje Municipality spokesperson, Sello Matsie, confirmed BUSINESS AS USUAL: Illegal miners returned to work yesterday. They also denied starting the veld fire burning on the outskirts of the city. Picture: Danie van der Lith yesterday that while the veld fires continued to burn in a number places, emergency personnel, including the fire department, were in the process of extinguishing these fires and had been able to bring the situation under control.
“At this stage, the cause of the fire is still under investigation,” Matsie said.
“The inferno has already caused extensive damage to the veld but we have been able to limit the destruction by bringing the fire under control.
“Personnel are currently monitoring the situation very closely but we believe that the danger is manageable.
“We will keep the public informed of any new developments.”
Meanwhile, Seekoei said it was business as usual for the hundreds of illegal miners who returned to work yesterday morning following violent clashes with mine security earlier this week.
While police and mine security were again out in force at the gates to the KEM-JV site along the Boshof road yesterday, no incidents were reported and Seekoei said that the illegal miners’ operations were continuing unabated on the floors around the city.
The ongoing conflict between the illegal miners and the mining company came to a head earlier this week when security were pelted with stones and then opened fire with rubber bullets.
The altercation also resulted in the arrest of two of the illegal miners’ leaders on charges of trespassing, which saw hundreds of protesters at the Kimberley Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday demanding their release.
Following their arrest on Tuesday afternoon, Seekoei and his co-accused, Tebogo Taku, were each released on bail of R2 000 on Wednesday, on condition that they do not interfere with state witnesses nor the investigation and refrain from entering KEM-JV property.
“We were at Ekapa’s this morning and things certainly appear to have calmed down following what happened earlier in the week,” Seekoei said yesterday.
“To date, the KEM-JV is yet to produce any proof that they own the land, but Tebogo and I will be respecting the court’s decision and will not be entering the property they claim belongs to them.
“However, there is no court order prohibiting the other miners from entering the site so our operations are carrying on as usual.”
KEM-JV spokesperson, Gert Klopper, confirmed that the tensions seemed to have calmed down but security would continue to monitor the situation.