By Nqobile Tshili/Whinsley Masara
Baron Dube, a prominent gold baron from Esigodini in Matabeleland South has been arrested for allegedly shooting and killing a rival panner in escalating gold wars.
Dube who is from Habane suburb allegedly shot Antony Bvundura (22) in the heat of a fight over a mining claim on Wednesday night.
Deadly and often bloody fights over the precious mineral have bedevilled Esigodini for years and the perennial problem seems to be getting worse.Sources said after shooting Bvundura, Dube retired to bed not realising he had killed him.
“He was arrested yesterday in the morning after shooting Bvundura who belongs to a group called amaKwekwe. It seems he discharged his gun as he usually does during gold wars, but this time he shot and killed one of the gold panners.
“Bvundura was found with gunshot wounds on the left side under the ribs. Dube left the gold pits and retired for bed. He only knew that he had shot someone dead as police raided his home today (yesterday) in the morning leading to his arrest,” said the source.
Matabeleland South police spokesperson Chief Inspector Philisani Ndebele said the details on the case had not reached his office.
Umzingwane Member of Parliament Brigadier General (Retired) Levi Mayihlome confirmed that Dube allegedly shot and killed the gold panner.
“I’m in Harare but I have been told that Baron Dube shot dead a gold panner,” said Rtd Brig Gen Mayihlome.
He said he was surprised that such a thing has happened as he recently engaged gold panners’ ring leaders who promised him to use amicable ways of dealing with their disputes.
“Besides meeting the members of the Joint Operations Command (Joc) over the gold wars, I have engaged the gang leaders who promised to stop all the fighting. But I’m surprised to learn that someone has been shot dead.
We agreed that in case there was a conflict, it should be reported to the police,” he said.
Rtd Brig Gen Mayihlome said he has even offered the police a vehicle to use while conducting their area operations.
He reiterated a call he made earlier this year that if police are failing to control gold panners, he could seek assistance from the military.
Esigodini Residents Development Association chairperson Mr Asan Mhlanga said residents were not shocked that someone has been killed in the gold wars.
“We have continued to raise concerns over these gold wars. We are sick and tired over this and we knew that one day someone was going to be killed during these scuffles. Ironically, Habane residents are hardly involved in these gold wars but miners who come from various areas come here and cause trouble.
You’ll find over 40 people sharing a two roomed house,” said Mr Mhlanga.
The Esigodini gold wars usually consist of groups known to the locals as amaGokwe, amaNkayi, amaFilabusi and amaKwekwe, who fight to control the gold claims.
The names denote gang members’ areas of origin.
He said residents hoped that the gold gangs would listen to calls for peace by the area’s MP Rtd Brig Mayihlome.
In September last year, police officers fled and left behind a cuffed suspect at Habane Business Centre after they were attacked by an armed gang of suspected artisanal miners.
Earlier in 2017, Dube allegedly shot a man who was part of a nine-man gang armed with axes, machetes, spears and knives that allegedly besieged him at his pub.
He has been previously been arrested and discharged by the courts.
Horrific stories have been told over the Esigodini gold wars with police seemingly failing to deal with the situation.
In November 2016, an alleged ringleader of one of the gangs of gold panners was hospitalised after his right foot was chopped off in a fight over a mining claim in Filabusi.
The suspect, who was facing charges of assaulting police officers, had been released from remand prison a few days earlier.
He and his gang allegedly attacked police officers in a bid to force them to release robbery suspects. The Chronicle.