ONE person died while another was severely injured in Inyathi, Bubi district, Matabeleland North when a gang of about 50 gold panners went on a rampage attacking other miners in the area.
In a Twitter post, the Zimbabwe Republic Police said the violence occurred 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,” tweeted ZRP.
In a follow up interview yesterday, national police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said they were investigating the alleged murder and reports of violence in gold rich areas across the country.
“We have made arrests, people have appeared in court, we are aware that there are areas where people have reported the so-called gold rush which is causing chaos and disputes. Members of the public should report incidents where the so-called gold rush is taking place so that appropriate and swift action can be taken before people engage in acts of violence,” said Ass Comm Nyathi.
He, however, said they have not yet received any cases of women being raped and livestock being slaughtered in Matabeleland North by gold panners.
Asst Comm Nyathi said they have partnered with the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development to fight against escalating illegal gold panning wars that have claimed lives in the Matabeleland North.
“We also appeal to mining companies that where some mines have been decommissioned, security measures have to be put in place to curtail chances of people coming in to try to get gold and, in the process, engaging in some of these disputes which can easily be resolved,” Asst Comm Nyathi said.
Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs Minister Cde Richard Moyo blamed a group of artisanal miners called amaShurugwi/maShurugwi for terrorising residents in his province.
He said amaShurugwi 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 amaShurugwi 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.
“When these gold panners come, they build their shacks that are not fit for human habitation. As it is, we have water shortages and the toilets are not enough to cater for everyone. This exposes the community to diseases,” he said.
Recently, Midlands Minister of State for Provincial Affairs Larry Mavima said amaShurugwi had caused extensive damage in the province resulting in Government deploying the provincial Joint Operations Command.