Illegal panning continues under the police’s nose at the gold-rich Sherwood Block in Kwekwe where hundreds of illegal panners are being allowed access by the law enforcement agents for a fee.
NewsDay visited the mine and saw four police tents dotted around the 200m² block with full bedding and fire stands where duty officers prepare meals.
A number of panners working in syndicates could be seen working on the gold claim under police supervision.
Illegal panners alleged the police guarding the area were demanding up to $1 500 as the entry fee for those with 2 to 5-tonne trucks so they could pan and load gold ore into the trucks.
Police officers who guard the area have reportedly become overnight barons and now go around town with trendy cars after cashing in on the block some 14km outside Kwekwe.
Mines deputy minister Gift Chimanikire told NewsDay he was unaware of the mining activates at the controversial site saying his ministry had declared it a reserved area.
“The latest information I have is that Sherwood was declared a reserved area and no licences were issued for any mining activities in that area until further notice. If they are any new developments, I am not yet aware,” he said.
Sources who refused to be named said officers including soldiers had taken up panning themselves and were now leading some syndicates which mine for gold which was then directed to the black market.
An assistant inspector who was in charge at the scene who refused to be identified or comment referred all questions to provincial acting spokesperson Assistant Inspector Emmanuel Mahoko.
“All our orders come from the province therefore if you want permission to visit these fields you will have to get clearance from that office,” said the officer.
Mahoko could not immediately comment on the matter saying he was unaware that there was panning at Sherwood Block and he needed time to consult and verify the said allegations.
Heavily-armed police and soldiers moved in on the block early this year to restore calm after the discovery of pure gold nuggets in the area now known as kuhasha triggered a massive gold rush across the country.
The armed officers drove away illegal panners using dogs and teargas before setting up permanent base at the mine which has been at the centre of a legal dispute between Zanu PF-aligned Josphats Sibanda and Robert Chipwanyira.