LISTEN: 'Carte Blanche' producer speaks out about Zama Zamas

LISTEN: 'Carte Blanche' producer speaks out about Zama Zamas

"It's like the Wild West out there." 'Carte Blanche' producer Graham Coetzer speaks out about the secret world of the Zama Zama illegal miners. 


The Zama Zamas are a well-organised gang operating in the broader illicit gold industry, worth billions of rands.

According to 'Carte Blanche' producer Graham Coetzer, they received numerous submissions from viewers in West Village - these are the old Mintails mine houses that were sold to the public.

People here really do live in fear. They say armed Zamas walk the streets in broad daylight and no one dares leave their houses at night. They are often caught in the crossfire of running gunfights between rival Zama groups, or the victims of other crimes they blame on the Zamas. 

READ: One dead, 46 arrested as zama zama crackdown continues

Unfortunately, rape is also a common crime. 

Innocent women are taken down a shaft and brutally assaulted. The areas are isolated and no one will hear your cries for help.

"We took heavily armed security with us, something we seldom do. This was the world the music video crew stumbled into unwittingly. An area where even the police fear to enter," Coetzer added.

The illegal mining problem in the area is huge. The old mining areas are about 1,700 hectares of land. This land is extremely difficult to police. Abandoned shafts, mining heaps, open veldt. The illegal miners know the areas like the back of their hands. When SAPS arrive they can disappear into mine shafts that could go anywhere.

What often happens is that a full-blown organised crime syndicate will take over a "shaft", and charge illegal miners to work there. They will pay with a cut of their gold. 

READ: 65 arrested following rape of eight women in Krugersdorp

The syndicates also provide the guys going underground with equipment, explosives, protection, water, and food. Underground in some areas, like working mines, a loaf of bread could cost R150. 

Protection is needed from rival gangs. These guys are usually heavily armed, not just handguns but full automatic rifles, hunting rifles with scopes on, etc.

In some areas, you simply can't approach. If you drive up to them in a vehicle, your vehicle will be shot at.

Spare a thought for police, who have to often go into these areas in "soft-skinned" vehicles, armed with a 9mm handgun. That being said there are often allegations that police are involved, they get paid by the wealthier syndicates to drive rivals off shafts, transport gold-bearing material, etc.

READ: Clampdown on ‘illegal miners’ continues in Krugersdorp, dozens arrested

While many Zamas are just people trying to make a living, the reality is they live in a dangerous world, that has been completely overrun by powerful organised crime syndicates that make millions. 

According to Coetzer, he has personally seen footage of Zamas beheading a rival, cutting off his whole head with a knife, and kicking it around like a football. 

"Both police sources and NGOs who worked in the area warned us that we were 'crazy' to try and get interviews with Zamas in the area."

The big syndicates, who buy up all the gold and feed the illegal mining, are mostly run by South Africans, as has been proven in exposes in the past.

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