The bloody events at the disused Blyvooruitzicht gold mine in Carletonville, involving the death of two dozen or more illegal miners and security guards since late last year, are alarming enough. What is just as worrying is the police response – or almost complete lack of it.
In this edition of the Mail & Guardian we report on the grief and anger of 70-year-old Simphiwe Mlanjeni whose son, Sonwabo, was savagely beaten by mine security officials and later found with head and chest injuries in a water-filled ditch.
The beating is recorded in a gruesome video clip seen by amaBhungane and published on the M&G website. The body has been identified at a mortuary and reported to the Carletonville police.
Yet no one appears to have been interviewed about the crime and, according to the family, no docket has been opened.
What seems to have happened is that local police, terrified by the violent conflict between zama zamas – illegal miners – at Blyvoor have surrendered their law-enforcement functions to security officials of Goldrich Holdings, the company that is trying to buy the mine. A spate of murders, assaults, rapes and robberies at Blyvoor and in the surrounding communities has gone unprosecuted and unpunished.
It appears that the dead man's crime, and that of another from Lesotho who died with him, was to steal corrugated iron sheets from the mine to build shacks. The irony is that Goldrich is owned by the politically connected Bhana family, which is accused of asset-stripping on a massive scale during the Aurora Empowerment Systems scandal and at Blyvoor.
This is far more than a local story about small-town malfeasance. The police failings in Carletonville make a mockery of our Constitution and the rights it guarantees to life, dignity and equal protection under the law.