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Increased Police Presence Promotes Peace in Boksburg Squatter Camp

Published December 25, 2023
7 months ago

In the heart of Boksburg, a wave of relief sweeps across the Angelo squatter camp as residents praise the bolstered police operations tackling the peril of illegal mining. The community once beleaguered by the lawless chaos of 'zama zamas' is now witnessing renewed tranquility due to the heightened police presence in their area, an initiative part of the provincial safety measures heralded for the festive season.

Operation Shanela, acquainted with the locals on Thursday, 14th December, has marked a significant change in law enforcement approach towards squatter camps, often marginalized and overlooked in urban planning and policing strategies. Led by acting Gauteng police commissioner Major-General Tommy Mthombeni, the operation aims not just to disrupt but to dismantle the dangerous underground network of illegal miners whose skirmishes have spilled blood and terror in the community.

The fear that gripped Angelo squatter camp residents reached its peak in July 2023 when a gas leak from a cylinder, tampered with by illegal miners, turned fatal. The incident marked a harrowing moment when women and children became victims of the hazardous conditions orchestrated by these mining operations. The cylinder, originally sold with toxic fumigants used for pest control, claimed 18 lives when its noxious contents diffused through the air, a tragedy still resonating in the hearts of the community.

In a decisive response, Operation Shanela has already yielded substantial results, with more than 100 arrests, including those involved in the illicit mining network. Police have seized gas cylinders, pendukas, and other equipment integral to the illegal extraction activities, debilitating a system that has long exploited the vulnerabilities of the informal settlement.

Lieutenant-Colonel Mavela Masondo, the Gauteng police spokesman, acknowledges the complexities of eradicating the illegal mining syndicates but reassures that the increased police visibility is just the start. Random searches, monitoring of taverns, and checkpoints are part of a broader strategy to restore peace and order to a community that has for too long been under the shadow of criminal elements.

The Angelo squatter camp, finally feeling a sense of security, is an emblematic example of law enforcement's potential to positively influence communities when sufficient attention and resources are focused on areas most in need. The long-term commitment to sustaining these operations will be the litmus test for an enduring peace in the squatter camp and a template for similar interventions across South Africa's informal settlements.

Residents now look forward to not just a peaceful festive season but a future where the dread of violence and unlawful activities is replaced by the comfort of safety and the promise of visible and effective policing.

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