By Gideon Madzikatidze
The Chimanimani Tourism Association (CTA) and Birdlife Zimbabwe are warning people to desist from taking advantage of lockdown regulations to indiscriminately plunder resources in the Chimanimani area of Manicaland.
The two organisations cited the Chimanimani mountainous area where rampant illegal alluvial gold mining is allegedly taking place during the locakdown to the detriment of the environment including the pollution of water bodies.
“This is exposing local communities to water-borne diseases since illegal miners use dangerous chemicals like mercury to extract the alluvial gold in the rivers,” said CTA’s vice-chairperson, Mr Collen Sibanda while addressing the media in Harare recently.
There was an outcry from the traditional chiefs and local people from Chimanimani who were worried about the influx of illegal gold panners from communities like Shurugwi who are indiscriminately plundering resources in the area.
Chimanimani is a picturesque area that attracts local and international tourists.
“We are worried about the illegal gold panners from other areas who are discriminately plundering and looting our resources through illegal syndicates. Chimanimani is a designated tourism area. The area is rich in natural tourism areas like forests as well as man-made attractions like heritage sites but we are concerned because the illegal panners are indiscriminately ruining these areas in search of gold.
‘’In the process of illegal panning, biodiversity is being destroyed. We are worried about alleged syndicates among members of the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority rangers, top government officials, and the illegal miners who are extracting minerals from heritage sites,” said Sibanda.
The illegal mining activities are adversely affecting domestic, regional and international tourism.
The famous Bubbling Spring from which aspiring members of the liberation struggle were cleansed prior to their recruitment into Mozambican Training Camp is now dry.
‘’As CTA in conjunction with other local stakeholders and leadership (including chiefs Chikukwa, Saurombe, Ngorima, and Muusha), we proposed to convene an inquiry meeting with the responsible authorities on the developments that have since affected the growth of tourism in our locality.
“We intend to engage local chiefs on the post-Cyclone Idai trauma among many members of our communities. We need to preserve our heritage by protecting sacred places,” said Joshua Sacco, the legislator for Chimanimani East.
Birdlife Zimbabwe chief executive officer, Ms. Julia Pierini bemoaned the plunder of resources for selfish ends at the expense of biodiversity and preservation of the natural ecosystem.
“We are really worried about the depletion of the environment through pollution, destruction of tourism heritage sites, and the invasion of reserved areas and sites. Those in authority should consider ecosystem regeneration and implement sustainable measures of good governance, taking cognisance of the fact that biodiversity conservation should be given a priority to any development.”