ONE of Zimbabwe’s major tourist attractions and a key biodiversity area, Chimanimani National Park, is under threat from illegal gold miners whose activities are a threat to the its fragile ecosystem and water supply.
BY Edgar Gweshe
Traditional leaders in Manicaland have expressed concern over the destruction of the cultural heritage and over 90 species of plant species found in the area.
“We are very much worried by the gold panners who are destroying the cultural heritage as well as polluting water sources. We have made attempts to stop the illegal gold panners, but we have not been successful and we would like to appeal to the relevant authorities to save the cultural heritage site,” Chief Ngorima said.
His sentiments were echoed by Chief Muusha, who said it was necessary to put in place tight measures to protect Chimanimani National Park from destruction.
Sources told NewsDay that ordinary villagers working in cahoots with Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) officers were behind the illegal gold panning activities.
It was also revealed that game poaching as well as cutting down of trees had become rampant.
“ZimParks officials who are supposed to guard the place are conniving with ordinary villagers to engage in illegal gold panning. What happens is that the villagers pay money to be allowed to conduct gold panning or in some cases, they will actually be working for a syndicate of corrupt ZimParks officials.
“This is the major reason why the destruction of the Chimanimani Mountains has been allowed to continue,” said the source.
But the ZimParks area manager for Chimanimani, who only identified himself as Mhosira, said it was difficult to prove whether his staff were working in cahoots with the panners.
He, however, admitted that gold panners were wreaking havoc in the area.
“In July alone, we arrested 24 people, but it is also difficult for us to prove whether they would have entered into the park for purposes of gold panning. Those who were arrested were fined $20 each. Most of the arrested are ordinary villagers from surrounding areas,” Mhosira said.
Environment, Water and Climate minister Oppah Muchinguri was not available for comment.