Authorities confront illegal sand miners
Department of water and sanitation along with Ilembe municipality officials at the first site visited, deciding on the best strategy to restore the natural flow of the Umvoti river.
"Enforcement blitz sweep through Umvoti river."
An enforcement blitz to flush out illegal sand miners from the Umvoti river was launched yesterday.
The National department of water and sanitation (DWS) in conjunction with the Ilembe district municipality (IDM), the KwaDukuza SAPS and invited media visited two of the identified transgressionary sites to inspect operations, seize equipment where necessary and open river blockages that exist as a result of sand mining.
Illegal sand miners are notoriously aggressive and the DWS decided to arrange for police protection after previous inspectors were confronted at gunpoint.
The blitz commenced at Umvoti water works with Ilembe Mayor Welcome Mdabe, DWS chief director of enforcement Nigel Adams and DWS KZN provincial head Ashley Starkey highlighting the severity of the problem and government’s determination to solve it.
“Warrants of arrest and search warrants have been prepared, we have permission to issue fines and criminal charges against perpetrators and criminal charges could result in a maximum 10 year prison sentence or a fine by a court of law” said Starkey.
The DWS has identified nine sites on the Umvoti river within the Ilembe district and discovered a tenth during yesterday’s session.
The trip to site number one, upstream from the Umvoti water works extraction site was found abandoned and removal of flow impeding sand commenced uninterrupted.
En route to the second site, located downstream from the extraction plant, the convoy stumbled upon a new mining operation that seems to have sprung up overnight.
Workers couldn’t provide permits and were ordered to return the sand to the river.
Obviously nervous, some of the transgressors snuck off to make hasty phone calls, making every effort to avoid being photographed.
Shortly after starting to open up the river at site number two, the workers arrived in an old red Toyota without number plates and their boss in the back seat.
A lengthy debate revealed this operator was renting a sand mining permit from someone in Durban.
“You can not rent a permit. It is like me renting your identity book,” said KZN DWS assistant director of compliance monitoring and enforcement Sibusiso Sikhosana.
No arrests were made or equipment confiscated but the license owner in Durban was ordered to send proof of his sand mining license to the DWS’s Durban office.
The team of compliance monitors and enforcement officers returned to the same sites today to continue restoring the flow of the Umvoti river.
The blitz is set to continue until December 24.
More illegal sand miners are being targeted in a blitz of the Mhlati, Illovo, Umgeni Mhlatuzi and Amatigulu rivers.
“Those are the rivers we have identified to have the most severe sand mining problems in KZN, ” said Sikhosana.
He added that the nine sites in the Umvoti river are far apart and spans an area no less than 10 km long.
Yesterday’s raid on the Illovo river had to be called off when angry residents confronted officials, burning tires, chanted struggle songs and hurled insults.
Starkey and Adams rushed from the Umvoti raid to assist at the Illovo river.