via The Silobela goose that lays the golden eggs | The Herald July 16, 2015
It’s a dream come true for the people of Silobela in the Midlands Province. The community’s longtime desire to exploit the gold resources that abound in the area, which for long have been in the hands of big companies and marauding gangs of illegal miners coming from as far as Masvingo and Bulawayo, has come to fruition.
Silobela now owns a claim through the Silobela Community Development Trust and its people are indeed getting something from the vast gold deposits in the area.
They now own Turtle 16, popularly known as Peace Mine. Teams from the 15 villages take turns to mine, take the ore to the mill, sell the output and share the proceeds, putting aside a small percentage for both mine development and community projects.
Trust chairman Mr Arthur Nkiwane said the short period that they have been mining, starting 2014, had seen marked improvements in the lives of people in the area.
“The mining trust has changed people’s livelihoods completely. Most of them own cattle, bicycles and beautiful houses among other things in the short period of time we have been in operation.
“The trust only manages the resources for mine development and for acquiring, among other things, fuel for compressors and the electricity generators and also explosives used at the mine. These are purchased in bulk, while dynamite is only acquired by one with a blasting licence,” he said.
That decision, taken in 2011, to approach the claim owner Freda Rebecca Mine (Mwana Africa) with a proposal for a community project, is indeed realising fruits as the majority of the youths now cycle, ride on bikes or drive their own cars. Many now boast corrugated or asbestos-roofed three- or four-roomed houses in the space of less than two years.
Shops are again filled with goods while activity in shopping centres has increased. The once ghost shopping centres have sprung back to life.
The community gold mining project has indeed breathed new life into Silobela.
Tucked away between Zhombe and Nkayi and Kwekwe, the area is proving to be a model of a community-driven development plan worth emulating for other resource-rich areas of Zimbabwe.
After discovering that there were rich gold deposits in the area that were either exploited by “makorokoza” and individuals at the expense of the community, a team of community-centred individuals approached Freda Rebecca Mine with proposal at a time many people also wanted to own the gold claim. Freda Rebecca Mine could neither lease to an individual nor a company hence the idea of coming up with a trust which benefits everyone.
“The community project proposal won and we were asked to register a community trust. After some initial resistance, Chief Sigodo, who was already illegally mining the claim, later agreed to the new community ownership trust becoming a board member 0f the trust,” Mr Nkiwane said.
Chief Sigodo is now one of the patrons of the Peace Mine together with Chief Malisa, Chief Mhlophe and Chief Gomo.
Villages take turns to mine and surrender 10 percent of the produce to the trust and 5 percent to lease the mine from Mwana Africa.
“Many of our young men and women who used to fight the project are now coming to join hands with other miners to make an honest living from the mine,” he said.
Silobela Zimbabwe National War Veterans’ Association chairman Cde Dallas Ncube said since the establishment of the venture, crime had drastically gone down as young people were now occupied.
He said as war veterans they were in full support of the project that has empowered thousands of families in the area.
“We encourage those who have power to come and work here. We have seen a change in lifestyle of people in the area. If you have noticed everyone is cycling or driving. Young men and women are running around on motorbikes and bicycles.
“Some have even acquired cars. You see that car there is actually being sold here. This was unheard of before but since the establishment of the mining venture last year the people of Silobela can have claim of having benefited from Zim-Asset. This is all we were crying for in the area – a project that can help improve the lives of our people,” Cde Ncube said.
Headman Ndebele, Mnsthi Ndlalifa, who is also headmaster of a Sibangani Secondary School, said since the establishment of the trust, life had improved both in the village and at in the school.
“I can see the benefits of the mine in the villages. This mine has helped with employment creation. This is good in that the benefits have been spread across the community. Mining is the only industry we know in Silobela and Peace Mine has not disappointed,” he said.
He said since the establishment of the development trust, crime had drastically gone down.
“My court rarely sits to hear criminal cases. Everyone is focused on making an honest living from the mine.
“For the first time in our history we did not wait for Government support for agricultural inputs. Our people bought their own inputs. That is what a community project must do; empower a people and wean the community from total dependence on central Government.”
He said the economic benefits of the mine were also evident in the schools with parents paying school fees in time.
“I want to say this year we have witnessed a marked improvement in the payment of school fees, children buying books and uniforms.
“Many parents have paid their fees in full and bought uniforms, a direct result of the mine. This has had a positive effect on the running of schools as resources are now available,” Headman Ndebele said.
His sentiments were echoed by Brian Malisa, who said he had seen a difference at the mine since the establishment of the trust.
“You see I can pay school fees for my children, buy uniforms and put food on the table without a hassle. I want to say the mine has opened doors for a lot of people in the area. Those who are working against the trust are anti-people and we won’t allow that,” he added.
In the first half of the year, Peace Mine has produced and delivered 18kg of gold to Fidelity Printers and Refineries and, with proper mining equipment, the mine has a potential of producing 10kg per month.
But like any other community projects, Peace Mine has its fair share of problems with a battle now raging over leadership, with some people accusing Mr Nkiwane of failing to consult. Chief Malisa and MP Manoki Mpofu accuse Nkiwane of lack of transparency and unaccountability.
To this Mr Nkiwane said: “Like in any project there are bound to be problems. Everyone wants to have a big chunk of the cherry but it is not good to deny the community proceeds from the mine.
“As a private development trust our main function is to promote the equitable distribution of the resources to people of Silobela and not private individuals.”
One of the miners, Melusi Moyo of Macebo Village, said there was nothing untoward about the mine’s management saying those who were fighting to take over control of the trust were not doing it for the good of the community.
“The mining venture is now orderly. We are slowly moving away from being makorokoza to a real mine. We now take turns to go down the mine and work.
“There are no incidences of violence common with illegal gold mining. I have also just finished constructing my four-roomed house and will soon construct one for my parents,” he said.
For their efforts, Peace Mine has twice scooped the Zimbabwe Small to Medium Enterprises gold mining award with the latest coming early this year.
In February, Peace Mine scooped the second best gold mining SME venture after Unki and Mimosa mines, beating other established mining syndicates and ventures.
For that Fidelity Refineries have actually recommended them to have a gold buying licence.
“Our record with Fidelity Refineries is so impressive we are in the process of acquiring a gold buying licence. Surely, Fidelity would not give us such a recommendation if our gold was ending up on the black market.
“It is only that those who are complaining want to wrestle control of the mine from the community and that we won’t allow. They have been to every office in the land seeking a reversal of the management structure but that has been rebuffed.
“This is a project for the people and those who are making noises against it are actually anti-people,” Mr Nkiwane said.
He said despite the noise from people wanting to take over the mine, the trust was now working at connecting power to the mine and de-watering another shaft to increase productivity.
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