MIDLANDS: Police are investigating senior Zanu PF officials linked to Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa over alleged illegal gold panning, cases of violence and murders in and around Kwekwe’s volatile gold mining fields.

The cases of violence and killings occurred over Globe and Phoenix Mine, also known as Falcon Gold, allegedly controlled by Gokwe-Kana legislator Owen Ncube — popularly known as Mudha. Ncube reportedly illegally took over mining rights with the assistance of Zanu PF politburo member July Moyo and Zanu PF Midlands spokesman Cornelius Mupereri, key Mnangagwa allies.

 The brutality and murder cases are being committed allegedly by Zanu PF youths loyal to Ncube, who like Moyo and Mupereri, is Mnangagwa’s political ally. Mnangagwa, widely seen as the political godfather of the Midlands province, is leading a Zanu PF faction manoeuvring to help him succeed President Robert Mugabe. The faction is currently under siege from a rival camp, G40, led by First Lady Grace Mugabe.

The escalation of crime in the gold rich area has also prompted cabinet to set up a taskforce to look into the chilling cases of violence and murder in Mnangagwa’s political sphere of influence.

According to top police sources who spoke to the Zimbabwe Independent off the record, there are currently four active cases of murder under investigation by the police, which cover the period between 2016 and 2017.

The first case is the murder of Washington Dick, allegedly by Likwa Ngwenya in November last year. The matter is in the courts.

Police investigations show that before turning on each other, Ngwenya and Dick were appointed leaders of an unregistered security organisation — which later became a terror gang — run by Ncube to ensure illegal panners do not invade Globe and Phoenix.

The state’s case is that on November 10 last year, Ngwenya, in the company of other unnamed accused persons, attacked Dick with machetes several times all over the body until he died near Sable Flats in Kwekwe.

After committing the crime, Ngwenya and his alleged accomplices fled the scene.

 “The accused’s (Ngwenya) cellphone was recovered at the scene, his vehicle was seen at the scene and the police also recovered a blood stained work suit in his motor vehicle,” said the state before a Kwekwe magistrate earlier this year.

Before his death, Dick was facing an attempted murder charge (ZRP Kwekwe CR101/09/16 and Kwekwe CID 01/10/16) for allegedly attacking Ngwenya using a machete following a dispute over a gold claim.

Ncube is said to have been carrying out gold mining operations in Kwekwe since 2002 when operations ground to a halt, as the owners felt mining operations were no longer viable.

 Police sources also said when Globe and Phoenix Mine closed operations, illegal gold panners and political leaders in Kwekwe scrambled to acquire tribute rights to the mine.

The police sources said Kwekwe Consolidated Gold Mines Private Limited and Homesake Mining and Technical Services approached the Ministry of Mines in 2009 seeking to clarify the validity of the agreement of the tributes.

However, the ministry said the agreement expired in February 2005, adding that any operations under the tribute were illegal.

Police sources added political interference led to a gold rush at the mine before Ncube took control.

He allegedly took advantage of unemployed Zanu PF youths and gave them responsibilities of providing security at the mine by protecting it from other illegal panners and supervising those who would have been given permission to mine on a 50-50% basis.

The sources said Ncube claims to own all mining tributes at the mine. He is alleged to have also claimed ownership of Moonbeam Hammer Mill, located two kilometres from Globe and Phoenix South pit mine.

However, the seizing of mining operations by Ncube did not go down well with some members of the Kwekwe community, the sources said. This saw the youths employed by the security firm engaging in running battles with members of community who also wanted to mine gold there. This resulted in a dramatic rise in cases of violence, assault and murder.

The sources said late last year, the security outfit’s leadership split into two camps over gold interests; one led by Ngwenya and the other by the late Dick. The sources said the two groups — which later morphed into terror gangs — would engage in vicious fights using machetes and knives, commonly known as “colombia clubs”.

However, both camps remained loyal to Ncube, widely viewed as the “gold lord”, “gold baron” or “kingpin”, in the area.

Contacted for comment yesterday, Ncube said he did not know Dick and Ngwenya. He also said he was not involved in gold mining.

“I have been sick for seven months since last year August and I was not in the country. I was admitted at Donald Gordon hospital in South Africa. I only came back in the country early this year. I am actually supposed to go back for a check-up. The incidents you are talking about, the violence in October until January occurred while I was outside the country, so how do they involve me?” Ncube said.

“After all, I am not involved in mining. I don’t have any rights at Globe and Phoenix Gold mine, neither was I interested in it. I am into farming. I am a farmer. So there is totally nothing like that. It is all lies. You are actually the fifth person to call me since last year over this issue and I have always said its lies. You are welcome to visit this side and see for yourself what is happening on the ground.”

Efforts to get a comment from Moyo and Mupeperi were fruitless as their mobile numbers went unanswered. They did not respond to text messages sent to them.

Police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba was not answering her mobile phone. When contacted via text messages, she said she was in a meeting.

Police sources said between September 18 2016 and November 10 2016, a number of cases were reported.

The violent clashes even drove Zanu PF Kwekwe Central MP Masango Matambanadzo into organising a “peace campaign” meeting last year at Globe Phoenix mine where he brought together about 120 people.

Matambanadzo tried to unite Ngwenya and Dick before his death, as well as their camps and also discouraged violence and use of machetes to resolve disputes.

On September 26 last year, Dick and an accomplice allegedly assaulted Ngwenya over a mining dispute at Globe Phoenix mine.

Dick and partner allegedly disarmed Ngwenya and grabbed his star pistol, serial number 1418040, and struck him with a machete and a log all over his body.

After that, Dick and his accomplice were arrested, but were remanded out of custody at Kwekwe Magistrates court on November 21 last year for judgement. However, before judgment was passed Dick was allegedly murdered (CR38/11/16 at Kwekwe Central and DR14/11/16 at Kwekwe CID) by Ngwenya and two accomplices. Ngwenya allegedly brutally assaulted and murdered Dick using machetes and “colombian daggers”.

Another murder case was also reported (CR86/10/16 at Kwekwe Central police station and CID Kwekwe 01/11/16) involving Noel Jacha, who is said to have been working with the late Dick.

Police sources said Jacha was stabbed on October 22 last year while having drinks with Clive Maronje at Much Better Bar in Kwekwe.

It is alleged Chamunorwa Marete, who belonged to Ngwenya’s camp, allegedly entered the bar with a machete and without being provoked, stabbed Jacha once on the right side of the chest, just above the right side of the chest and at the back. Jacha died on the spot.

Marete, who fled the crime scene, was arrested by police in Masvingo on January 10 this year and transferred to Kwekwe for trial. The matter is before the courts.

Another case occurred in the wee hours of January 14 when Elvis Moyo was murdered along Nhamo Street in Rutendo. His body was discovered by police officers who were on patrol.

Police sources said investigations revealed Moyo was murdered allegedly by Ngwenya’s terror group members, Goodhope Tawanda Mahachi and Courage Sibanda, who ran away from the police at the crime scene. The murder case is under CR34/01/17 at Kwekwe Central police station, while recorded under DR28/01/17 at Kwekwe CID.

After the upsurge of murder cases involving machetes, Officer Commanding Kwekwe District invoked section 14 of the Public Order and Security Act 11:17, which bans the possession of certain weapons.

In February this year, Mines Minister Walter Chidakwa said cabinet had set up a committee to look into violence at mining communities.

The cases, sources said, have political implications for Mnangagwa and his allies.- The Independent