Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
POLICE in Matabeleland South have arrested 51 illegal gold panners who were operating at Upper Ncema Dam in Esigodini, threatening Bulawayo’s water supplies.
Bulawayo City Council yesterday said in the event that a pipe was to burst at the dam due to the activities of the gold panners, the city would go for close to a month without water.
Matabeleland South police spokesperson Chief Inspector Philisani Ndebele said the panners were arrested on Wednesday.
“We have arrested 51 illegal panners along upper Ncema Dam in Esigodini. Our preliminary investigations established that these panners came from all over the country. 15 of them were from Gokwe, 12 from Masvingo, 11 from Mberengwa, five from Binga, three from Zhombe, three from Esigodini, one from Nkayi and another one from Chipinge,” he said.
Chief Insp Ndebele said the operations of gold panners were damaging the environment and threatening livelihoods.
“We have rivers that supply irrigation schemes, we have Umzingwane, Silalatshane, Ncema and Insiza rivers so where ever they are conducting the illegal mining activities, this affects downstream water supplies as their panning activities contribute to siltation. Secondly, they use cyanide and from my little knowledge — cyanide has long term effects. This means at the end of the day there is water pollution that is taking place, threatening livestock and humans,” he said.
Chief Insp Ndebele said police would continue to arrest illegal panners to protect the environment and society in general.
Bulawayo Town Clerk Mr Christopher Dube said the illegal gold panning activities could affect the city’s water supplies for a prolonged period.
“I’ve been shown a very disturbing photo and maybe that is what could have caused the operation. The photos show panners digging under water mains, that is extremely bad. They are seriously damaging the environment. Those water mains can collapse. If the pipe collapses, the city may be without water for a month,” he said. — @nqotshili