Patrick Chitumba Midlands Bureau Chief—
THIRTY-NINE gold panners have been arrested for disarming security guards, blowing up three safes and making off with $9,000 and 650 grams of gold at Peace Mine in Silobela. The suspects are set to appear before Kwekwe magistrate Vimbai Mutukwa today for a ruling on their bail application. They first appeared before the same magistrate on Friday facing public violence, theft and robbery charges.
They were not asked to plead, but applied for bail. Lindeni Nkala appeared for the State. Peace Mine is owned by the community in Silobela. Silobela Community Development Trust chairman, Arthur Nkiwane, told The Chronicle that initially 42 people were arrested in connection with the robbery and theft of the gold and money at the mine on Tuesday morning.
The Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF), said in a statement the community mine has over 4,000 artisanal miners from 13 wards in Silobela who work in groups of about 20 youths each.
The ZMF said there were disturbances last week on Saturday that saw mining operations being suspended. The organisation said there were claims that some people were seen mining during the period when operations had been officially suspended, a development that allegedly angered some community members.
Disgruntled members allegedly then ganged up at night and invaded the mine. The group, ZMF said, allegedly looted groceries from a tuck shop and stole $9,000 cash and gold ore.
Silobela Member of Parliament, Manoki Mpofu, said mining syndicates usually take turns to prospect for gold at the mine and the violence and robbery appears to have been triggered by the suspension of operations.
“These syndicates usually take turns to mine at the mine in question. “I got the report that there was a misunderstanding between the syndicates and the mine director Nkiwane which resulted in the youths besieging the mine,” he said.