GOLD panners who invaded villagers’ homesteads in search of gold in the Mphoengs area, in Mangwe, Matabeleland South, are reportedly pulling out, frustrated that Zanu PF officials have not lived up to their promises to give them mining machinery after winning last year’s elections.
The illegal miners claiming to be Zanu PF supporters descended on Mphoengs last year in March, digging on homesteads and fields of villagers in search of the mineral and leaving a trail of destruction.
Villages worst affected by the activities of the gold panners were Bhulu and Matsota.
Attempts to have the gold panners evicted last year by the police failed, leaving the villagers vowing to take up arms to prevent losing their homesteads.
Inquiries last week by the Southern Eye over the activities of the gold panners revealed that most of them were pulling out in frustration after promises of gold claims and other mining machinery had not been fulfilled by Zanu PF.
Former legislator for Mangwe, Edward Mkhosi, yesterday said the activities of the gold panners were always going to come to an end because “they were being used for politicking purposes”.
“That chaos and madness of digging on homesteads of villagers looking for gold is no longer there,” he said.
“They have pulled out from the area. They realised that they were duped by Zanu PF into believing that they would be given compressors to mine gold and be given gold claims.
“We used to tell them that their activities would come to end because what they were doing was illegal. It was all politicking,” Mkhosi added.
However, Andrew Langa, the Zanu PF Matabeleland South chairman and Sport minister, yesterday denied Zanu PF had promised gold panners machinery in exchange for votes.
“That is not true,” Langa said, adding that the party “had no links with the panners”.
But Simon Mpofu, the village headman for Ward Five in Mphoengs said villagers “were now living in peace after the gold panners started pulling out of the area”.
“We are happy and living in peace. They were even threatening to evict us from our areas to turn them into minefields,” he said. “We are glad all this is over.”
Apart from digging on people’s homesteads and destroying their crops, the activities of panners were leading to siltation of water sources. The gold panners also stood accused of stealing livestock from locals for slaughter.