We did not start veld fires - min­ers

Diamond Fields Advertiser - - NEWS - MUR­RAY SWART STAFF REPORTER

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.

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