Once they discover that panners have struck gold, party officials prepare the necessary paper work and evict the panners from the gold-rich holes they have dug. The culprits are said to be encouraging locals to register their claims in order to make it easier to track down which claims are producing the most gold.
Speaking at a roundtable on extractive industries, Obedingwa Mguni, an MP and member of the parliamentary portfolio committee on mining, acknowledged the anomalies.
The panners accuse the police of turning a blind eye. Speaking on condition of anonymity a woman who carries out gold panning at Kitsiyatota in the area accused a woman identified as Mbereko of leading the onslaught against the gold panners. She is believed to be working in cahoots with senior Zanu (PF) members who now have multiple farms in Mashonaland Central where gold deposits are common.
“If she eyes your claim then you will be out in no time. She comes and claims it just like that. She sends some panners who work for her and they start to work on the claim. Recently a man realised $5000 from his rich claim. The next day he was asked to leave,” said the source.
Junior police officers said they could not act on disputes arising from the wrestling of the claims from rightful owners because of the involvement of high ranking party officials.
The panners accused the local MP, Remigias Matangira, of failing to act as he is also an interested party who carries out mining in the gold fields at Kitsiyatota. Matangira admitted that he has been a miner even before becoming an MP but denied his claims were at Kitsiyatota. He also denied that there had been skirmishes there.
Further investigations show that the corruption is not only confined to Bindura but its epicentre could be the mines ministry which is failing to fight corruption in the offering of claims. A mining tout, only identified as Goddie, took this reporter through the whole process of applying for a concession and advised us that he could do the pegging for us and facilitate a smooth process.
Asked if he was an employee in the ministry, he said he had ‘connections’ in the system that could make things happen. There have been numerous reports of high profile disputes. Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi was given mining rights in a wildlife sanctuary owned by Andrew Mupungu in Matabeleland by a private pegger.
It is believed the pegger, licenced by the ministry of mines, went on to peg mining claims for Mohadi without consulting the owner. The dispute has spilled into the courts. Powerful politicians have been accused of conniving with mining commissioners in the ministry over the allocation of concessions. Vice President Emmerson Mnanagwa was reported to be involved in dubious mining activities in Kwekwe in 2004.
The Ministry premises have become a haven for middle men and other such characters claiming to have the connections to help prospective miners secure concession licences.
Permanent Secretary Francis Gudyanga failed to respond to written questions for more than two weeks. While the relevant authorities show arrogance and take their time in dealing with this matter, gold panners in Bindura told us sad stories about how their livelihoods were being disrupted. The local economy depends heavily on informal mining through the sale of chemicals and equipment. Informal mining employs more than 500,000 people country-wide.