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Zama zamas run riot on school, students run for their lives

A group of people suspected of being zama zamas ran riot during a heated and violent demonstration in Ermelo, Mpumalanga, disrupting teaching and learning at two different schools.

During the demonstration, students from Wesselton Primary School and Reggie Masuku Secondary School fled into the streets after their respective schools were attacked as part of the demonstration. This is according to News24.

Some vehicles on the road were also pelted with bricks.

The arrest of 271 suspected illegal miners in Matsulu on October 13 allegedly sparked the enraged demonstration.

In video footage that is circulating on social media, students can be seen fleeing into the street as tires burn in front of their school. One can hear a woman urging the students to flee.

Last week, according to Jasper Zwane, a spokesperson for the Mpumalanga Department of Education, police in Ermelo arrested a group of men illegally mining coal from an abandoned mine and seized their vehicles.

READ MORE: Suspected Zama zama’s kill four at tavern. Police on scene

“Those who weren’t detained resorted to a disorderly protest in the community.

It is not clear how the protesters got entry to the schools, but according to the info he received, they initially attacked the security guards before gaining entry.

“The protesters posed a threat to the security and forcibly entered the schools, causing disruption. Students departed. Some teachers attempted to safeguard the safety of the children, but they also began to flee,” Zwane added.

He reported that the disruption lasted an hour. Zwane confirmed that schools resumed operations the following day with no further disruptions reporte

According to police spokesperson Brigadier Selvy Mohlala, rioters started throwing bricks at cars going on the N11 and burned tires on the roadway.

According to him, when police attempted to control the protesters, students from the high school threw objects at the police. During the chaos, he added, the police dispersed the protesters by firing rubber bullets.

Mohlala stated that it was unclear whether the protesters were illegal miners or residents, but based on radio interviews, residents held the police responsible for the protests.

“The police have been criticized for arresting illegal miners. The community vowed to protest until the zama zamas were freed.

“Another listener threatened that the community would set the police station on fire,” Mohlala added.

271 alleged illegal miners were arrested by Ermelo police last week. Mohlala reported that the group consisted of 138 South Africans, 30 Zimbabweans, 92 Mozambicans, and 11 Eswatinis.

During the arrests, the police seized a front-end loader, three trucks, six bakkies, wheelbarrows, and other implements believed to have been used in illegal mining operations, according to the official.

Mohlala added, “According to reports, the trucks and bakkies were carrying coal.”

All of the suspects were charged with illegal mining, and the Department of Home Affairs will conduct additional investigations to determine the foreign nationals’ status in the country, he said.

Mohlala stated that, despite the arrests, locals believed that little to nothing was being done about illegal mining when they voiced their concerns to Police Minister General Bheki Cele during his visit to Matsulu a day after the arrests.

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