Corrupt police are turning a blind eye to illegal gold panning in Muzvezve, Kadoma, by soliciting bribes from fortune-seekers who are causing extensive land degradation.
An illegal gold panner (name supplied) and a policeman who spoke on condition of anonymity said the police at Venice Mine Police Post allowed illegal panners to dig gold a few metres from the police post for a fee.
“The policemen in this area have also become corrupt and are given gold by the illegal panners,” the panner said. “That is why they do not collaborate with farmers when they report cases of destruction of their property.
“We actually go to dig right close to the police post. The police ask us to pay $50 to allow us to prospect for gold near their post where we have identified very rich gold deposits,” he revealed.
When NewsDay visited the area last week, the news crew found that Venice Mine Police Post is indeed situated near the abandoned structures of Venice Mine, part of the Falcon Gold group which ceased operations in 1996.
Our source said the illegal gold panners had found ways of dodging the law.
“We have organised groups and from time to time we hold meetings to strategise on how we can deny that we are illegal gold panners whenever law officers want to bring us to book. We operate under the guise of Mupamombe Cooperative,” he said.
He said although Mupamombe Cooperative was legally formed by Zanu PF politician Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana, the leader of the cooperative, Phillip Hove, advised the panners that whenever they faced the wrath of the law, they should claim they were mining under Mupamombe Cooperative.
“In 2006, black boots (Police Support Unit) descended on us under Operation Chikorokoza Chapera. They ordered us to get out of the area and that is why we have to operate under the guise of being workers of Mupamombe Cooperative to protect ourselves,” he said.
A police officer who refused to be named confirmed that the illegal gold panning activities thrived while the police in the area watched or pretended to be doing something when they were not.
“Some farmers in the area have complained against the illegal panners who are digging everywhere and sometimes destroying water pipes.
“The farmers are the ones who get into trouble with the law instead when they report the cases to the police,” he said. The officer in charge of Venice Mine Police Post, who refused to give his name, said he had been deployed in the area for two weeks and did not know of any corruption cases brought against the police.
“I am not even authorised to comment on that and I suggest you get your comment from Cecilia Phiri, the officer in charge of Battlefields Police Station, because she is the one who has that authority,” he said. Phiri denied ever getting information that there were illegal gold panning activities and cases brought before her of corrupt police.
“I do not have any information about that. I do not have any story to tell you. If you want any comment you can go to Kadoma to see the officer in charge, Manzini Moyo,” she said.
Efforts to get a comment from Moyo were fruitless.