Eldorado mine in Zvimba South, Mashonaland West just like the legendary Spanish Eldorado is associated with death and loss of fortune.
BY NUNURAI JENA
The ancient Eldorado was synonymous with a tribal ceremony that included the throwing of gold, emeralds and precious stones into Lake Guatavita near present-day Bogota during the installation of a new ruler.
So far the total number of people killed at the local Eldorado mine is not known although the mine manager, Gerald Sairon says they recorded four deaths this year and a lot more could have been trapped underground.
Sairon said the number of deaths could run into tens of people since most illegal mining is done during the night.
“The problem with the situation at the mine is that the numbers of those who go underground on the other side are not known since we are talking of artisanal miners.
“The area where people are dying is not this side but the part that was invaded by Zanu PF youths some months ago” said Sairon then.
“Makorokoza (artisanal miners) are dying. So far we have four on our records and many more are being injured.”
Last month 39 artisanal miners were arrested when the police raided the mine after the artisanal miners who are mostly Zanu PF youth refused to leave the area allegedly with the blessing of senior politicians.
The case is still to be finalised at the Chinhoyi courts, with the public prosecutor Arthur Bosha showing signs of fear by allowing the accused to go scot free, saying there were “administrative issues” that he wanted to sort out with the police.
Another batch of 29 artisanal miners was arrested last week and are still languishing in police cells after the magistrate Felix Mawadze denied them bail following a request by the state to verify their physical addresses and identity documents.
Three months ago, Home Affairs minister who is also the member of parliament for the area, Ignatius Chombo addressed the Zanu PF youth in the area encouraging them to continue with the mining activities and assured them the police would not arrest them.
Chombo yesterday denied any links to the mine, saying people were trying to tarnish his name.
“The only link that I have with the mine is that it is located in my constituency. The mine is owned by two Chinese nationals and currently is under judicial management,” he said.
“I know many have been calling asking about the mine but as far as I know it is owned by these Chinese people who have appointed lawyers to act on their behalf.
“Anyone trying to drag my name is very mischievous.
“I know some names of politicians have been dragged in that wrangle as cover up but the truth is the mine belongs to the two Chinese nationals whose case is in the High Court as we speak.”
It became free for all as Zanu PF youth from as far as Nkayi, Shurugwi and Mount Darwin flocked to the area in search of the elusive gold.
The local Zanu PF youths who seem less knowledgeable were outclassed by those from other areas such as Kadoma, Chegutu and Shurugwi who are ‘experts’ in illegal mining triggering jealous. The purported arrests are meant to screen local youths and those from other areas.
The police using the arrests as an excuse went to the site purporting to clear the area from artisanal miners but ended up helping themselves to the gold, sources at the mine said.
Last week the Ministry of Mines tried to stamp its authority by instructing the police that is being accused of running acartel in a mafia style at the mine to arrest artisanal miners.
A number of illegal miners are believed to have been trapped underground another artisanal miner who is on free bail Brain Shiri (19) said they paid the police $100 each to go underground to mine under the cover of darkness.
Shiri said they would come out early in the morning before they changed shifts.
But on this fateful day Shiri said they failed to come out in the morning and when they finally did in the afternoon they were arrested.
Shiri said a lot of other artisanal miners were trapped in the mine as some feared to come out for fear to being arrested and some were not even aware of the ultimatum to leave the mine.
However, police spokesperson Charity Charamba yesterday denied claims that more artisanal miners could have died during the operation.
“The Ministry of Mines was leading the operation and they went underground to check before closing the holes and one panner who was already dead due to being crushed by stones had his body retrieved,” she said.
“No one lost his life due to the operation if there is anyone who has information about people who lost their lives advise them to go to Chinhoyi Police to report.”
Speaking during the recent Zanu PF youths meeting at Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT) Mashonaland West acting Zanu PF chairperson Tawanda Rupiya accused the police of corruption and looting gold at some miners while pushing the youth
Innocent Hamandishe, the Zanu PF youth commissar, tried to silence Rupiya but he was shouted down by the youth who started chanting: “Eldorado, Eldorado, Eldorado!”
Zanu PF youths accuse the police of removing them from Eldorado Gold Mine in order to loot.
The youth couldn’t be far from the truth after all as the police allegedly took all the loot from those they arrested.
According to state papers prepared for the two batches of artisanal miners arrested nothing was recovered but those arrested said the police took all the gold on them before threatening them with ill-treatment if they dare speak out.
Eldorado mine was placed under the judicial management of lawyer Jonathan Samkange following an ownership dispute between Chinese nationals Zhou Haixi on one hand and Chen Shaoliang and her daughter Chen Xiandong on the other.
Chen’s family also allegedly roped in Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s son, Collins, as their personal interpreter raising fears the latter could be earmarked for a place in the disputed gold mine.