Farirai Machivenyika, Harare Bureau
Parliament has instituted a probe to unearth the origins of machete gangs, how they are operating, the impact of their actions and what can be done to halt their activities that have had a devastating effect on the lucrative mining sector, one of the major foreign currency earners.
The machete wielding gangs’ criminal activities have wreaked havoc at gold mining sites across the country, causing several deaths and injuries.
The Parliament investigation, which will begin next week, will be carried out by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Mining Development.
The Committee yesterday held an emergency meeting where it resolved to carry out the probe.
The Ministers of Mines and Mining Development (Winston Chitando), Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage (Kazembe Kazembe), Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs (Ziyambi Ziyambi), Police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga and Prosecutor-General Kumbirai Hodzi will be summoned to appear before the committee.
Other stakeholders expected to appear before the same committee include media executives and editors, traditional chiefs, civil society organisations, the Zimbabwe Miners Federation and the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission.
Addressing a media conference after the meeting, the Committee’s Chairperson Cde Edmond Mukaratigwa said they wanted to find out how the gangs came into being and how their activities had impacted on the gold sector, among other objectives.
“We acknowledge the efforts by different Government departments and the Committee has keenly discussed this issue today (yesterday) and resolved to conduct an inquiry into the matter in order to identify and trace the foundation and development of the gold panning gangs; to find out the impact of their activities on gold production in light of the $12 billion target set for the mining industry by 2023; to establish what Government is doing to end the perpetuity of the terrorism against gold producers by the gold panning gangs,” he said.
“The Committee further resolved that Government kick-starts legislative procedures to allow for stiffer penalties with regards to such perpetrators as was done in the case of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act regarding the vandalism of railway and electrical material among others.”
Cde Mukaratigwa said the Committee resolved to engage Government to expedite the formalisation of artisanal miners to ensure accountability of their activities.
It was necessary to identify the challenges being faced by Government and stakeholders in quelling the challenges bedevilling the gold sector and the society at large and to compile and present a comprehensive report to Parliament with findings and recommendations, he said.
Cde Mukaratigwa said the Committee urged Government to intensify efforts to stamp out the gangs permanently and increase police presence in known hotspots.
He said it was their duty as representatives of the people to act against the lawlessness being perpetuated by the gangs.
“The Committee is perplexed by the rampant killings going on in the mining sector and as elected representatives of the people, Parliament will not remain silent on the issue,” said Cde Mukaratigwa.
“Within its mandate, Parliament and Government shall work to ensure that punitive measures are put in place as it affects our major resource and reduces the market space by tainting our minerals,” Cde Mukaratigwa said.
“They are a danger to society taking into consideration the impact these gold panning gangs have on the social, cultural and economic spheres of Zimbabwe. The committee, through its constitutional obligation, is re-affirming fully its participation against the illegal activities being carried out by the gold panning gangs.”
Zimbabwe has always been a civilised Republic regulated by the laws enacted by Parliament and unruly elements need to be dealt with, said Cde Mukaratigwa.
The gangs murdered Constable Wonder Hokoyo in Battlefields just before New Year and a gold buyer, Marko Dube, was also killed in Mvuma a few days later.
Police have since arrested a number of people belonging to the machete gangs in Kadoma, Mt Darwin, Mazowe, Gweru and Bubi in Matabeleland North province.