■ Jeff Jackson
A two day disruptive operation between the Hawks’ Serious Organised Crime Investigation unit and the Department for Mineral Resource resulted in the arrest of four suspects in Letsitele and Giyani for running backyard gold laboratories.
On 28 March two suspects were arrested in Letsitele in possession of gold bearing material, explosives, twenty bags of gold ore, gas bottles, pendukas and mercury all worth an estimated R1 million. Steven Mashele and Thabiso Maahlela have since appeared in the Napuno Magistrate Court for Contravention of Precious Metal Act and they were remanded in custody until 4 April 2019 for formal a bail application.
In 2017 and 2018 similar operations were conducted at Mapuve Village and at the rehabilitated Ellerton mine situated in Nhlaniki Village and more 70 suspects were arrested for contravening Precious Metal Act and their cases are still ongoing court.