Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
GOLD panners have invaded Inyathi District Hospital in Bubi, Matabeleland North, and are now threatening the institution’s infrastructure.
The gold panners are said to operate at night and vanish during the day. They allegedly started invading the hospital last week and police are said to have apprehended some of the suspects.
A Chronicle news crew visited the hospital on Wednesday and observed that they have inflicted considerable damage. The panners have damaged the hospital’s perimeter fence and are digging inside the health facility’s premises. Their operations are threatening the hospital’s incinerator where they have started digging just 30 metres from it.
Incidences of gold panners invading institutions and threatening key infrastructure are on the increase countrywide.
Recently, the Bulawayo City Council raised concern that gold panners were threatening the city’s water infrastructure.
Their activities also affect the environment as they leave pits which can result in the death of animals and destroy pastures.
Matabeleland North provincial medical director Dr Admire Kuretu said the Ministry of Health and Child Care has engaged the police over the issue.
“At the moment, we have reported the matter to the police. The district development coordinator is also giving assistance. On the effect to the operation of the hospital maybe the man on the ground will give more details. The district medical officer is Dr Gwera,” said Dr Kuretu.
Dr Gwera could not be reached for comment as his cellphone rang unanswered.
Bubi Constituency MP Sonny Mguni said even locals are involved in gold panning at the hospital. “
They have damaged the fence of the hospital and had started digging within the premises of the hospital. Some of the gold panners are from Matobo while others are locals.
There is quite a number of groups that are operating that are panning in the area, their conduct is destructive,” said Mr Mguni.
“The hospital has its own security. We have informed the security guards at the hospital that while they conduct their surveillance rounds and in case they come across gold panners they should not approach them but must alert the police,” he added.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said police have been notified about the situation at the hospital and necessary deployments have been made.
“We are monitoring the situation and so far, we have established that there were some mining activities but the police are on the ground. We will keep on monitoring and we urge the public to report anyone who is conducting mining activities there so that a quick response can be implemented,” said Asst Comm Nyathi.
Matabeleland North Environmental Management Authority (EMA) provincial manager Mrs Chipo Mpofu-Zuze said the problem is not only limited to Inyathi District Hospital.
She said gold panning activities have also contributed to veld fires.
“Some of the damages resulting from illegal mining include land degradation due to unreclaimed pits all over the land. These have impacted negatively on cropping and livestock farming. Farmers have lost their livestock in these pits. Depending on the sizes of the pits, land can be rendered less useful for other productive land uses,” she said.
“Our experience with illegal mining is that they use metal detectors but to be able to do so they have to clear the area of vegetation. Because these are illegal and they are in a quest for quick extraction they do not use the more reasonable land clearing methods, instead they resort to setting areas on fire.” –@nqotshili