via Grace blamed for panners menace – NewsDay Zimbabwe June 15, 2015
First Lady Grace Mugabe has been blamed for the upsurge in gold panning in Bindura that is now threatening the social fabric after she berated authorities for clamping down on illegal miners during her rallies against former Vice-President Joice Mujuru.
BY SILENCE CHARUMBIRA
President Robert Mugabe’s wife took a strong stand against the police during the anti-Mujuru rallies last year accusing them of abusing informal businesspeople including vendors.
According to government officials in Mashonaland Central Province, gold panners at Kitsiyatota in Bindura have become uncontrollable.
The panners have caused environmental and health challenges with organisations like the Environmental Management Agency, Zimbabwe Republic Police and Bindura Town Council watching helplessly.
Officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said the First Lady’s sentiments had precipitated chaos in the area with uncontrolled mining operations putting a lot of lives at risk.
“There is a lot of chaos as there is no control of the way the panners operate. They dig anywhere and the pits are left uncovered,” an official said.
“Prostitution is rampant and sex workers come from as far as Harare and Mt Darwin because there is brisk business.
“The police cannot do anything about it and the place is a no-go area as they have set up security that assaults anyone dimmed unfriendly.”
Another official accused the panners of digging up and vandalising power cables and water pipes in the area.
“It is total chaos. Our fear is if this goes unchecked, there will be major blackouts in the town,” he said.
“There is serious noise pollution as their dynamites are detonated in unprotected areas while sometimes they ignite them in the open risking the lives of many people.
“It is so close to the central business district that sometimes depending on the quantity of explosives the debris goes several hundreds of metres.
“There are thousands of people at the mine and it is not shocking if some have been buried alive when the explosives are detonated while they are underground.”
Bindura South MP Remigius Matangira on Friday said the First Lady was right to say people should be left to mine at Kitsiyatota but said they should do so within the confines of the law.
“There are no jobs and people have to survive but they need to do so within the confines of the law,” he said.
“The Ministry of Mines should be involved as well as other relevant authorities to make sure it is done within the confines of the law.”
The First Lady’s name was invoked recently when government gave vendors an ultimatum to stop operating from undesignated points, but Zanu PF argued that her statements were being twisted. Zanu PF said the First Lady was against illegal vending.