More than 500 illegal gold panners have descended on a gold mining claim in Motapa area, near Inyathi after the discovery of rich deposits of the yellow metal. There is chaos in Britwell village, Balanda Ward 8, in Motapa area as the gold panners are playing a cat and mouse game with the police to gain access to the gold mining claim said to be registered under Pro-hub Mining Syndicate.
A Chronicle news crew visited the area yesterday around 3PM, some hours after the police had dispersed the gold panners and found some in groups on the side of the road leading to the claim.
Some were carrying gold detectors, shovels and picks as they went in different directions fearing arrest by the police.
It is understood that the gold rush has attracted panners from Kwekwe, Bulawayo, Nkayi and Gweru.
There is massive land degradation in the area as some are digging a few metres from the road which leads to Isabella mine.
A neighbourhood watch committee member from the area, Howard Tokuda, said all was not well because of the over 500 gold panners.
Food prices in the area have doubled due to their presence.
Tokuda said the gold panners fetched water for bathing and sifting gold at the community’s only well.
“They are using our water and they are claiming ownership to the only water well in the area,” he said.
“The villagers are not happy. We can’t do anything to them because they can be violent.
“The police come and chase them away but as soon as they are out of here, the panners come back. Like now they are in the bushes hiding, waiting for the police to go before they come back.”
An elderly man who identified himself only as Mlambo said some villagers were to blame since they provided shelter to the panners.
“Our own people are welcoming them; they are making money from them and that’s why you see that we’re a divided community – divided because of gold,” he said.
Villagers said the gold claim belonged to someone they named as Rangarirai Hurube.
“We understand that he does not have a permit from the Ministry of Mines to start operations. So the panners have taken advantage of that since he can’t do anything. So he sometimes comes and watches in vain as gold from his claim goes for a song,” said one of the villagers.
Fallen trees, trenches, empty bottles and cans litter the claim.
And among the illegal gold panners were about two police officers armed with assault rifles.
One of the officers was asleep as some gold panners who were later described as the “blue eyed boys” of the police were digging while others had been chased away.
One of the panners said due to the presence of the police, they were forced to work at night.
He alleged that those who operate during the day would have entered into deals with the police.
“The guys you saw panning are working with the police. They pay the police to continue mining while the rest of us are chased away. We understand that for every gram of gold they get, they share with the police officers.
“They are there holding guns and would be watching every movement,” he said.
Matabeleland North provincial police spokesperson Inspector Siphiwe Makonese said while there was an operation to weed out illegal gold panning in the area, she could not comment on the matter.
“Please contact Harare for any comments,” she said