illegal mining activities that are likely to disturb the urban environment are taking place in a bushy area in Emhlangeni near Mzilikazi Barracks, commonly known as Brady Barracks along the Harare-Bulawayo Road.
BY SHELTON MASINA
It is alleged that the illegal mining activities were started by gold panners four months ago.
The place was barricaded by members of the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) based at the Barracks.
Indications are that the soldiers said the place had to be protected because it was in the vicinity of the barracks.
“We were chased away by soldiers.
“They told us that we will be arrested if we are seen close to the site,” one of the illegal gold panners, Nkosinathi Sibanda said.
It is alleged that some soldiers took advantage of their role in safeguarding the site and embarked on illegal mining activities at the site.
“There are some illegal mining activities at the site.
“Our chiefs deployed junior officers to protect the site from illegal mining activity but at the same time they are told to dig for gold and whatever is found is submitted to our bosses,” a soldier, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.
It is alleged that illegal mining activities did not end when the soldiers barricaded the place but they continued in the name of protecting the site from illegal gold panners.
Sources said the illegal mining activities were being done during the night by members of the ZNA.
“We were told by soldiers not to be anywhere near the site and they also said people who trespass will be prosecuted,” an Emhlangeni resident, Egnes Dube said.
A police officer under the Mines and Minerals Unit said they had received information about the illegal mining activities.
“At one point we went to the scene close to Emhlangeni gumtrees after receiving a tip off that there were some soldiers allegedly doing illegal mining activities,” the police officer, who requested anonymity, said.
“We were told by soldiers that it was their training zone.
“They said the holes were dug for trenches because soldiers needed trenches for training purposes.”
A Mines and mining development ministry official in Bulawayo said there was no mining claim in Emhlangeni.
“There is no mining claim in Emhlangeni suburb.
“The only mine which is registered is in Queens Park close to Mahatshula.
“We do not have any evidence of mining at that place, but we once received a report and we sent our investigation team to the site but they were barred by members of the ZNA,” said the official on condition of anonymity.
An employee of the Environmental Management Agency (EMA), Sithembisiwe Ndlovu, said illegal mining was a problem throughout the country.
“Efforts are being made by EMA in collaboration with other stakeholders such as the police and the City of Bulawayo to stop such illegal activities,” Ndlovu said.
“We do appreciate the public for giving information on such illegal activities as this assists in the efforts to stop them before extensive degradation is done.”
The Zimbabwe National Army refuted allegations that its members were conducting illegal mining.
ZNA deputy public relations director Colonel Alex Zuva said: “The area in question is a cantonment area as gazetted and it remains as such.
“The area in question is under the jurisdiction of ZNA’s 1 Infantry Brigade headquarters, whose mandate is to ensure that the area is secured.
“Accordingly, the deployment of troops is meant to curb illegal mining activities that were taking place in the area.”
He said the ZNA did not involve itself in illegal mining activities but was there to create a conducive environment for business to prosper in the country.
Bulawayo City Council senior public relations officer Nesisa Mpofu did not respond to questions sent to her.