Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Correspondent
SEVENTEEN police officers from Inyathi and Nkayi have been arrested and charged with abuse of office in connection with illegal gold mining activities in Bubi District.
The Police Act prohibits officers from pursuing business interests without first notifying the Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri.
Police sources said the officers — 11 from Inyathi and six from Nkayi — were arrested on Wednesday last week and have been appearing before an internal tribunal at the Nkayi District police headquarters.
Police prosecutors have preferred a range of charges ranging from criminal abuse of office, leaving their posts unattended and engaging in activities which violate the Police Act.
After the internal hearings, which are expected to continue into next week, the police officers will face criminal charges.
Some of the officers who were charged were deployed at Durban Mine where violent clashes over control of gold claims have previously been reported.
A police source said the Officer Commanding Nkayi District, Chief Superintendent Never Tembo and another officer identified as Superintendent Ntundle, presided over the hearings.
He said the officers were allegedly charged for failing to execute their duties, with members of the public accusing them of turning a blind eye to illegal activities by gold panners.
“The 17 officers have been charged under the Police Act after being suspected of being involved in mining at the gold claims and failing to discharge their duties. Some senior police officers tried to cover up the activities of the officers but the matter came to light following increased public complaints and violent clashes,” said the source.
“Their hearings started on Monday at Nkayi Police Station.”
The source said four of the officers were positively identified by omakorokoza who accused them of forcing them into mine shafts.
The names of the 17 officers could not be established yesterday with police keeping a tight lid over the matter.
National police spokesperson Chief Superintendent Paul Nyathi said he was not aware of the case and referred questions to Matabeleland North police.
Acting Matabeleland North police spokesperson Assistant Inspector Eglon Nkala had earlier referred all questions to the national spokesperson’s office.
There have been violent clashes between rival gangs of illegal gold miners in Bubi District.
On Monday, five gold panners who were part of a group of 30 men rounded up by police for wreaking havoc in Inyathi were jailed for two years for a range of transgressions.
Their arrest followed the deployment of 200 police officers from Nkayi in the Inyathi area to restore order.