Police, army preside over illegal gold mining

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Over 600 illegal gold panners who were “vetted” by former ruling party Zanu PF entered Sherwood Block near Kwekwe over the weekend in search of gold nuggets right under the nose of police and military personnel guarding the area.

Gold panners armed with metal detectors, picks and shovels made their way to the lucrative mining claim after being given the green light by top Zanu PF functionaries in Midlands Province.

According to police records at the site, 1 100 grammes of gold was collected at Sherwood Block on Sunday with no major finds recorded amid speculation the area had already been looted.

Kwekwe District Co-ordinating Committee chairman Jairos Mapenduka and provincial vice-chairman Larry Mavhima were among the gold seekers who descended on Sherwood Block, where those who discovered the deposits are said to have made huge fortunes.

In an unprecedented move witnessed by NewsDay, police armed with dogs, teargas and baton sticks assisted by military police stood guard while hundreds of mostly illegal gold panners scavenged for gold.

“This is as if the police and army have blessed illegal gold panning. How could they stand watching illegal panners at work. People who have no gold prospecting licences allowed to dig for gold at a disputed mine?” asked a local lawyer who refused to be named.

The gold which was extracted from the mine was weighed, recorded and deposited with people supposedly from Fidelity Printers who were on site. They were promised payments would be made later this week.

Panners were being allowed into the area by police in groups of 10 under the name of a group leader who would have been cleared by Zanu PF district leadership.

Security at the site was tight with all gold panners subjected to thorough body searches before leaving the fields.

Midlands Affirmative Action Group secretary-general Owen Matava who was part of the gold panners confirmed no large deposits of gold were found in the area.

“Expectations were high among the youths here, but not much gold was found. The most syndicates could find was 50 to 60 grammes and all the gold has been logged with either the police or Fidelity Printers,” he said.