- Last Updated on 29 October 2012
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Deep controversy continues to surround the exploitation of minerals across the country for patronage purposes disguised in some instances, as indigenization and empowerment. Reports coming from Kwekwe are that ZANU PF Youths in the Midlands Town have scaled up illegal gold mining detrimental to the environment. These illegal, environment damaging activities are said to be taking place with the blessings of senior ZANU PF Officials in the province.
In what appears to be a coordinated patronage program, it is alleged that Zanu PF party structures have been coordinating illegal and environmentally unfriendly gold extraction activities in Kwekwe since 2002 but have had to scale up this activity as other avenues of patronage close up. The illegal Gold panning activities are reported to be rampant in areas around Globe and Phoenix mine, Chaka Mine, BD gold mine and Tiger Reef mine. It is reported that the Zanu PF youths have formed themselves into syndicates of about 15 to 20 members, with the syndicates themselves suspected to number upwards of 15.
The Member of Parliament for Kwekwe Central Honorable Blessing Chebundo confirmed that illegal gold panning activities in Kwekwe are on the increase and are systematically coordinated by the Zanu PF at a provincial level, under the command of one Owen Ncube who is also known as 'Mudha Mugabe'. The Crisis Report has reported before that Owen Ncube is believed to be "the Hand € of Defence Minister, and aspiring ZANU PF President, Emmerson Mnangagwa.
In a news story captured by The Financial Gazette dated 12 April 2012, Mudha Mugabe, speaking about the Kwekwe "gold fields € is reported to have said, at a ZANU PF Rally in Sherwood, thathe called on residents of the Midlands;
"To enter the fields and do so through ZANU PF structures. Those that are not known within the party will not have access and those from outside the Midlands will not be allowed here €.
Honorable Chebundo stated that given the levels of leadership involvement where ZANU PF is concerned and the clear impression of this new invasion as a party program, there was no way that Zanu PF would rein in its members, in-spite of being sensitized of the detrimental effects the activities by their youths were inflicting on the environment, especially those of siltation of dams and rivers.
Sechmore Muringani, a resident of Mbizo castigated how Zanu PF was luring unemployed youths in Kwekwe into gold panning to gain political support. Muringani also lamented how the gold panning activities had threatened the town's infrastructure for instance, Globe and Phoenix Primary School which almost collapsed after it had been turned into a gullies and Rills kingdom, during the 2008 Kwekwe Gold Rush.
Mbizo Legislator Honorable Settlement Chikwinya, who also spoke to the Crisis Report Team, affirmed the allegation that illegal gold panning activities in Kwekwe were benefiting ZANU-PF senior officials in the area as they are the ones who buy gold from the illegal miners at below market prices. Taking a swipe at the Police, Honorable Chikwinya added;
"The ZRP will obviously not act because they are in connivance in these shoddy mining activities with ZANU-PF officials who are using poor party youths as dust soldiers to systematically loot gold in Kwekwe €,
Contacted for comment by this Crisis Report Team, Kwekwe Assistant Commissioner Charamba said that she unaware of the gold panning activities in the Kwekwe area, as she had not received any reports. Charamba referred all questions to the Officer Commanding Kwekwe District. Efforts to get hold of him were fruitless as he was reported to be off-duty.
The Government through the Mines and Mining Development Ministry has said that it will soon pass a law legalizing the activities of artisanal miners also known as "makorokoza € but analysts have warned that care should be taken to preserve the environment and also ensure that the law is not another way of entrenching and legalising patronage along party lines.