Following a spate of violent attacks by machete wielding gangs targeting gold producing areas, stakeholders have called on authorities to stop this menace in order to restore peace and tranquility.
This emerged at the multi-stakeholder conference organised by the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) with support from the European Partnership for Responsible Minerals (EPRM) held at the Holiday Inn Hotel to discuss the attention-grabbing spate of violence in the artisanal mining sector.
Several artisanal and small-scale miners have been robbed of their gold, gold ore, money and in some instances violently dislocated from their productive gold sites.The fierce attacks perpetrated by the machete gangs has unfortunately left some dead and others injured. The media is awash with stories about machete gang violence which of late is worryingly escalating.
Honourable Edmond Mkaratigwa, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Mining Development said this crime has manifested beyond those dubbed as MaShurugwi.
“This crime has spread across the country and the source is simply criminals and not miners. Miners have become victims and production has been grossly affected. We need to stop the torment and stop the crime! The formalisation of the artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) sector is key in regulating the mining sector with specific attention to gold detectors and banning of machetes,” Hon Mkaratigwa said.
Henrietta Rushwaya, the President of the Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) urged the government to come up with a red flag regarding the machete issue. She called for enactment of stringent sentences against offenders as we as deterrent laws. She encouraged communities to come together and report such cases which are posing a threat to security and society’s social and moral fabric.
Sophia Takuva, the Secretary of the Zvishavane Women Miners’ Association said miners should be empowered to protect themselves against the marauding machete gangs.
“There should be gun laws concerning the issue of miners protecting themselves against the machete gangs. On the issue of evidence and justice delivery, the Judiciary should engage and work with line ministries to curb corruption in the mining sector. The ongoing system of releasing miners must stop. Stiffer penalties must be given to these machete criminals who are murdering citizens and miners,” Takuva said.
Parliament, as a key stakeholder has three main responsibilities which include oversight, law-making and representation. Section 117 of the Constitution states that Parliament has the responsibility to makes laws for the peace, order and good governance of the country.
What has been happening in the country calls for making laws that promote peace and order particularly in the mining sector.
Mr. Wellington Takavarasha, the ZMF Chief Executive Officer said that the President of Zimbabwe, his Excellency Hon E. D. Mnangagwa has spoken about the fact that Zimbabwe is Open for Business.
“Since 2017, the mining sector has been one of the major investment destinations of our economy in the gold, platinum and lithium. As such it is important that we are making the mining sector a safe destination for our investments. We cannot allow fear to grip our nation because of the rogue elements that have been terrorising the ordinary people and investors,” Mr. Takavarasha said.
The Committee on Mines and Mining Development called an emergency meeting last week following a spate of violence and murders caused by the gold panning gangs. The purpose of the meeting was to look consider the factors causing the high cases of machete violence and killings; and identify the stakeholders that can assist in enquiry.
Some of the key stakeholders include the Ministers of Mines and Mining Development, that of Home Affairs as well as the Minister of Justice. Other stakeholders include: mining producers , mining communities, civil society organisations among others.
This enquiry is intended to be joint meeting with the Committee on Defence and Home Affairs because of the nature of the events that have been happening in the country.
“Everyone who has something to say is fee to approach the Committee so that they can make a contribution. We shall begin a full enquiry in February 2020. We shall also be visiting the affected areas,” Hon Mukaratigwa added.
ZELA Programme Officer, Nyaradzo Mutonhori, said the mining industry has played a central role in the economic story of the country over the last decades.
“Although the industry has been the key driver of economic growth, the growth has rarely delivered benefits in terms of poverty reduction and improved well being for the majority of the population and to add on to that grief there is the surge of these machete wielding gangs that have ripped havoc across the nation.
Most mining activities take place in rural settings where the communities are already marginalised in terms of their access to quality education, health, sanitation and water.