Police have warned that they will deal ruthlessly with perpetrators of the violence has rocked Mazowe district where illegal gold panners are fighting running battles over the precious mineral.
Police spokesperson, Chief Superintendent, Oliver Mandipaka, Monday said the raging battles among illegal gold panners who have camped at Mazowe Mountain, also known as Birmingham Mountain, and their illegal mining activities should end with immediate effect.
Mandipaka said illegal mining activities were not permissible in the country and any person engaged in such nefarious activities would be arrested and ejected from the area.
“Illegal panning activities are not permitted because they destroy the environment,” said Mandipaka. “All those illegal panners camped at Mazowe Mountain will be arrested and should move out of that mountain because it is an offence.”
Last week, a group of 16 illegal gold panners called MaShurugwi and camped at the mountain armed themselves with machetes, knives, axes and clubs and attacked villagers at Musasa farm in Mazowe District, leaving six people seriously injured.
Although at first the battles were between rival groups of illegal panners the violence spread into adjacent villages and farms.
Villagers complained they had been robbed of their livestock and maize by the marauding MaShurugwi team. Yesterday, Karoti Yasini, an illegal panner said casualties of the fierce fighting had risen to 16.
“As from Thursday last week, three illegal gold panners went missing. One has since been found, but the whereabouts of the other two are still unknown. We fear that they could have been killed during the fighting and thrown into the pits that are dug in search of gold,” said Yasini.
He said the name of one of the missing gold panners was still unknown, but the other missing person was identified as Tafadzwa Shumba.
The one who has since been found was only identified as Mabhongo. Yasini said Mabhongo was lucky to escape after he sought help from soldiers guarding Iron Mask Farm, which belongs to President Robert Mugabe.
Yasini said the other two men had been missing for four days, but it was also possible that they could have run away to other places to avoid being found and killed by the MaShurugwi.
He said although the police at Mazowe Police Station at first ignored the fighting the Bindura CID section had now been deployed to hunt down the violent gold panners at Birmingham Mountain.