By Oliver Kazunga
A group of machete-wielding gold panners have reportedly re-invaded Waterwitch Mine in Bubi district, Matabeleland North province following a recent gold rush in the area.
The group is also threatening farming activities at Twin Farm Lovendale Extension where Waterwitch Gold Mine is situated.
When a Chronicle news crew visited the mine recently, Waterwitch Mine proprietor Mr Ishmael Kaguru and Twin Farm Lovendale Extension owner Mr Nhlanhla Makhuyana said they were terrified by the panners who threatened personal attacks on them and vandalism of existing infrastructure.
“The situation is very bad as the fierce machete-wielding artisanal miners have reinvaded the mine. We are scared of moving around because they are violent and we can’t stop them from interfering,” said Mr Kaguru, a former Zimbabwe Miners’ Federation (ZMF) executive.
“We are even failing to do our milling at the mine because of them. They also source water from one of our major reservoirs and we can’t stop them otherwise we get attacked or the infrastructure gets vandalised. Last time they stole our carbon from the carbon room and that affected our operations big time.”
Mr Kaguru said sometime this year, together with Mr Makhuyana, they engaged the police who calmed the situation but said the menacing group was back again.
“We need protection and if we are not getting any right now then we don’t know where to go. It looks like we are living in some other country with lawlessness,” he said.
“We have seen the police carrying out successful operations elsewhere countrywide, what about this place? We are putting it to the authorities that this mess should stop forthwith.”
Mr Kaguru said each time police arrived after making a report, the rowdy intruders would disappear only to return when officers had left. He said their mine was now losing productive time because of the disturbance. In a separate interview, Mr Makhuyana said the panners had taken over part of his farm.
“They have dug up pits with some of them going down between three and 10 metres and these have been left uncovered, posing danger to farm workers and wild animals. Infrastructure such as roads at the farm has also been vandalised,” he said.
“We are appealing to law enforcement authorities to intervene.”
When this news crew visited the mine and the farm, the panners were busy with their activities. While most of the open spaces have uncovered pits, some vendors can be seen selling goodies and food items to the panners, who are believed to have come from different parts of the country.
The Officer-in-charge at Inyathi Police Station, Chief Inspector Christopher Moyo, declined to comment and referred questions to Matabeleland North police spokesperson, Chief Inspector Siphiwe Makonese, who further referred questions to acting provincial police spokesperson, Sergeant Namatirai Mashona.
“I am not in the office now. I am in Harare for the agricultural show. You can contact the acting provincial police spokesperson (Sergeant Mashona),” said Chief Insp Makonese. Sergeant Mashona could not be reached for comment as her mobile number was not going through. The Chronicle