A total of 51 illegal gold panners from Matabeleland South Province who operated at the Ncema Dam in Esigodini were on Wednesday arrested by the police amid reports that their operations were threatening water supply in Bulawayo.
According to authorities at Bulawayo city council, in the event that a pipe was to burst at the dam due to the activities of the rampaging miners, Zimbabwe’s second largest city would go for nearly a month without water.
The latest development comes as a timely relief for the cash-strapped local authority. Matabeleland South provincial police spokesperson Chief Inspector Philisani Ndebele confirmed the arrest of the the illegal panners:
“We have arrested 51 illegal panners along upper Ncema Dam in Esigodini. Our preliminary investigations established that these panners came from all over the country. 15 of them were from Gokwe, 12 from Masvingo, 11 from Mberengwa, five from Binga, three from Zhombe, three from Esigodini, one from Nkayi and another one from Chipinge,” Chief Inspector Ndebele said.
He also took a scathing attack on the illegal miners for their operations whose operations adversely impact on the environment.
“We have rivers that supply irrigation schemes, we have Umzingwane, Silalatshane, Ncema and Insiza rivers so where ever they are conducting the illegal mining activities, this affects downstream water supplies as their panning activities contribute to siltation. Secondly, they use cyanide and from my little knowledge — cyanide has long term effects. This means at the end of the day there is water pollution that is taking place, threatening livestock and humans,” he said.
In an interview, Bulawayo Town Clerk Mr Christopher Dube bemoaned the illegal gold panning activities, saying theybcould affect the city’s water suply.
“I’ve been shown a very disturbing photo and maybe that is what could have caused the operation. The photos show panners digging under water mains, that is extremely bad. They are seriously damaging the environment. Those water mains can collapse. If the pipe collapses, the city may be without water for a month,” said Dube