Gold panners terrorise villagers

VILLAGERS in Umzingwane district’s Ward 13 have appealed to the government to sniff out illegal gold panners in their area who have wreaked havoc along the Umzingwane River resulting in the deaths of a large number of livestock that are trapped in the pits.

Nqobile Bhebhe
Chief reporter

The estimated 1 000 panners operate along the Umzingwane River which has huge gold deposits.

Ward 13 councillor Jabulani Makhala told Southern Eye on the sidelines of a field day yesterday that gold panners, who are mostly from outside the district had caused double tragedy to their community.

“Gold panners are a nuisance in the ward. There is no single homestead that has not lost livestock, especially cattle that would have fallen and died in the pits,” said Makhala.

“What is even more painful is that most of the illegal panners are not from the district. They are from areas as far as Mberengwa and Masvingo. As council, we have done our part to discourage illegal panning, but we seem to be losing the fight. We appeal to the Mines ministry to speed up regularising panning,” Makhala said.

He added that locals were not benefitting from the mineral resource.

“We are losing our livestock and we are also not benefiting from the gold. Just last week, there was a rush in the ward after gold was discovered. People flocked to the area to dig up the gold and just left,” he said.

Village headman Ezra Ncube said council and the government should tighten law enforcement measures.

“Council should really enforce the by-laws. The river (Umzingwane) is being heavily silted and polluted by the panners. The government should at least allocate mining claims,” he said.

Ncube added that cattle rustling was also prevalent and he attributed it to the presence of gold panners.

The government and Environmental Management Agency have in the past carried out sporadic raids on gold panners, but that has not deterred them from easily returning to continue their illegal activities along the river bank.

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