A gold rush spawned by discovery of ore by a woman in Gokwe North District has seen more than 8 000 people descending on Tongogara community a fortnight ago to illegally extract the mineral.
Law enforcement agencies have since been deployed to maintain law and order after it emerged that the place had become not only a haven of crime, but had disturbed the ecosystem, seen extreme disregard of Covid-19 regulations and serious land degradation and pollution.
The community comprising traditional leaders, legislators and government officials met at Gokwe Nembudziya growth point on Monday to discuss the new discovery and the rush by illegal miners.
Gokwe North District development coordinator, Mr Martin Musakanda, briefed the gathering about what Government officials observed and what they envisaged doing.
“It is confirmed that a woman picked up a piece of gold ore from the place in question,” he said. “The gold ore was then discovered by knowledgeable community members after noticing that the woman was using the ore to play a traditional game called nhodo.
“She eventually led the community to the place, which subsequently led to a massive movement of people from all walks of life to the place.”
Mr Musakanda said upon getting the reports, staff of his office together with the Environmental Management Agency, the police and other Government agencies headed for the area, about 50 kilometres from Nembudziya growth point.
“We discovered an estimated 8 000 people panning gold,” he said.
“There was serious land degradation of about six hectares, deforestation, land pollution, disturbance of the ecosystem, breeding ground for criminal activities, spread of sexually transmitted infections and prospectors in possession of papers dated 31 March 2021.”
Mr Musakanda said some of the challenges they noted were unavailability of safe drinking water, insecurity of local people, absence of ablution facilities and non-compliance with Covid-19 regulations.
“We recommended that the illegal activities be stopped forthwith and allow formal processes to take place, that the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development takes the lead, holders of prospecting licences register with the local rural district council, security areas to take charge and that a community share ownership be mooted,” he said.
“In line with Government’s devolution agenda, we recommended that a community share ownership scheme be created.”
Speaking at the same occasion, Gokwe Nembudziya legislator Cde Justice Mayor Wadyajena said it was critical that the gold discovered benefit the local community, consistent with the Government’s devolution agenda.
“We have youths who are idle and our view is that these local resources should benefit local communities,” he said.
“This is consistent with the thrust of devolution being pushed by the Second Republic led by President Mnangagwa. But we need to emphasise that it has to be done in an orderly and lawful way.”
Cde Wadyajena implored communities to be properly organised so that they were able to make a credible case to Government for them to participate in the extraction of the mineral.
He expressed concern that traditional leaders were stopped by some police officers from carrying out traditional rituals at the site.