WE are alarmed at the rate at which marauding gangs of artisanal miners going by the moniker “maShurugwi” are unleashing violence in mining communities and seemingly being a law unto themselves.
The loss of lives they leave in their wake and the brutal manner in which they terrorise other artisanal miners points to a group operating with impunity and a bravado that can only be derived from an assurance that nothing will be done to them.
It is time authorities put a stop to this mindless terror and protect communities and artisanal miners most of whom are law abiding and contributing immensely to gold deliveries to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. The machete-wielding gangs have now become a clear and present danger to the security of this country because of their dastardly acts.
Early last month, small scale miners gathered in Gweru for their inaugural Conference hosted by the Zimbabwe Miners’ Federation (ZMF) and were addressed by President Mnangagwa who implored them to desist from violence.
The President condemned violence and lawlessness among artisanal miners, saying perpetrators of mining-related crimes will face the full wrath of the law. “We have heard through the media about the lawlessness from among artisanal miners, some invading other people’s mines while armed with machetes. The president of the Zimbabwe Miners’ Federation has (Ms Henrietta Rushwaya) has, however, distanced the artisanal miners from these crimes saying they were not the ones involved in such clashes. She said these were the works of some rogue elements bent on tarnishing the artisanal miners’ name.
“We have said we don’t want this, anyone found in possession of these dangerous weapons should be arrested and jailed,” said President Mnangagwa.
However, despite the President’s call for an end to violence, rogue elements continue to wreak havoc and yesterday we reported on an incident where one person died while another was severely injured in Inyathi when a gang of about 50 gold panners went on a rampage attacking other miners in the area. Police said the incident happened on Sunday and Monday.
“Fifty artisanal miners armed with machetes and axes went on a rampage, attacking other miners. Two male adults were severely assaulted and they sustained serious injuries. One resultantly died upon admission to Inyathi Hospital. The accused person, who informed other gold panners of his heinous deed, is still at large,” said a police spokesperson.
Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs Minister Cde Richard Moyo blamed maShurugwi for terrorising people in his province. He said maShurugwi were killing people, raping women and slaughtering residents’ livestock while conducting illegal mining activities.
“Our people are living in fear because of the violent behaviour of the illegal gold miners who come from other districts. The guys who are called maShurugwi attack locals if they find them also panning for gold. They are always carrying axes and machetes. They are so daring that if the gold belt is stretching to people’s homesteads, these criminals violently force them out of their homes so that they can extract the minerals,” said Cde Moyo.
He called on the police to take action against the violent illegal miners who are causing untold suffering to members of the public. “We are engaging police to ensure that they increase deployment of their officers in these areas affected by the violent gold panners,” said Cde Moyo.
Deputy Chiefs’ Council president Chief Mtshane Khumalo, whose jurisdiction covers Bubi district, said the illegal gold panners were not just making life a hell to communities but their livestock as well. “A lot of animals are falling into pits left by these illegal gold miners who have no regard whatsoever for locals. They brutalise people while damaging the environment. They even dig shafts in grazing lands so some of the villagers are now losing their livestock and cannot even confront the violent gold panners,” said Chief Khumalo.
We sympathise with the affected communities and call on the police and other law enforcement agents to act decisively to put an end to this menace. The lawlessness currently pervading these communities is a serious indictment on the local police and we implore them to mercilessly weed out these malcontents.
Their integrity is at stake because communities look up to the police to protect them. People cannot be terrorised in their own homes by marauding gangs while authorities turn a blind eye.
If the police are failing to contain these gold wars, perhaps it is time they enlisted the services of the army which we know is capable of restoring order.
While this may be a step too far, it is something worth considering because of the gravity of the situation. There is a danger that our gold could be classified under blood minerals because of the activities of maShurugwi.
Government, therefore, has a legitimate reason to stop their reign of terror by whatever means before it is too late. It is time for decisive action.