illegal miners broke into a school
A crowd of illegal miners broke into a school and threatened learners and teachers during intense protest action in Ermelo, Mpumalanga on Tuesday.

Highvelder received a video where a group of terrified Wesselton Primary School learners cried while fleeing the chaos.

Zama zamas breach school fence

A teacher from the school told the publication on condition of anonymity that the zama zamas broke into the school by cutting the fence during their protest on the N11 outside Ermelo.

She said they slammed on the doors of classrooms, demanding children leave the school.

They then went to the principal and threatened to burn the educators’ cars on the premises if the children did not leave the building. They had already burned tyres outside the school.

“The children were screaming and crying while the protesters shouted at them,” the teacher said.

It is believed the zama zamas broke into the school and intimidated teachers and learners to get educators involved in the strike.

The Ermelo Taxi Association reportedly assisted in quelling the situation.

Highvelder reported that the protesters also targeted nearby Reggie Masuku Secondary School.

Mass arrest

Although not confirmed, the protest action could be due to a significant breakthrough made by police which saw 217 illegal miners arrested last week.

The operation was led by the Saps Gert Sibande District Office and assisted by the Saps National Intervention Unit, Ermelo police and K9 units, the Saps Air Wing, the Department of Home Affairs and security companies, Highvelder reported.

Of the men arrested, 30 were from Zimbabwe, 92 from Mozambique and 11 from Swaziland.

In addition to illegal mining charges, the foreign nationals also did not have proper documentation to be in South Africa, and are facing additional charges.

A front-end loader, three trucks and six bakkies loaded with coal, wheelbarrows, pickaxes and forks were confiscated by police.