ZANU PF promised heaven for illegal miners in the run-up to last year’s elections including decriminalising the industry as soon as it got a fresh mandate to rule.
It’s been eight months since the party won a landslide victory and yet there is no sign of reforms in the mining sector.
Ordinarily this would not have been an emergency, but in this case the impression created by the government is that illegal mining is not wrong, hence Zanu PF’s willingness to refine laws that criminalised the practice.
This has created impunity as illegal miners now operate with the false impression that their activities are above board.
Stories of how illegal miners are upsetting the social order and causing untold damage to the environment abound amid a clear reluctance by law enforcement agents to deal with the cancer.
Last Friday, we reported that villagers in Umzingwane district’s Ward 13 were appealing to the government to sniff out illegal gold panners in their area who are wreaking havoc along the Umzingwane River.
Villagers say the activities of the gold panners have resulted in the deaths of a large number of livestock that are trapped in the pits left by the illegal miners. Villagers estimate that at least 1 000 panners operate along the Umzingwane River which has huge gold deposits.
The river is a very strategic source of water for Bulawayo, which has a population of over one million people.
Ward 13 councillor Jabulani Makhala said most of the panners causing havoc were from outside the district.
Panners have also been blamed for cattle rustling that has become prevalent in Umzingwane.
The government and Environmental Management Agency have in the past carried out sporadic raids on gold panners, but as long as the government engages in double speak concerning the status of illegal miners, this scourge would be impossible to tackle.
Meanwhile, law enforcement agents have to do their work and protect the Umzingwane villagers from these unruly elements.