South Africa police discover 20 bodies in disused mine

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JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 04: Members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) and Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) monitor compliance to lockdown level 3 regulations on June 04, 2020 in Johannesburg, South Africa. The operation was led by Captain Mafalo from Johannesburg Central SAPS. (Photo by Sharon Seretlo/Gallo Images via Getty Images)
FILE PHOTO: Members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) and Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD). (Photo by Sharon Seretlo/Gallo Images via Getty Images)

Police in South Africa discovered 20 decomposing bodies of suspected illegal miners in an abandoned goldmine shaft southwest of Johannesburg.

“The first five bodies were discovered on Monday and 15 (more) bodies” on Tuesday, police spokesman Brigadier Sabata Mokgwabone told AFP on Wednesday.

In a statement, police said they are investigating the cause of the deaths, adding that the men’s bodies “were found wrapped in white plastic bags” and bore “severe body burns”.

“All the deceased are suspected to be illegal miners commonly known as ‘zama zamas’ operating in obsolete shafts in Orkney and Stilfontein,” just under 200 kilometers (125 miles) southwest of Johannesburg, police said in the statement.

Thousands of “zama zamas” — which means “those who try their luck” in Zulu — operate in the country, according to the South African Human Rights Commission.

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