Youths looking for gold in Mazowe, about 40 kilometers north of Harare, say they can go for days without getting anything. (Columbus Mavhunga/VOA)

ZANU PF and police syndicates have taken over mining at the gold-rich Wondedzo Hill in Masvingo North, 23 kilometres from Zimbabwe’s oldest town, after sealing it off and clearing thousands of miners who had camped on the hill in search of the precious mineral.

Police officers from the Support Unit sealed off the hill last week, but The NewsHawks, as well as interviews with villagers and other stakeholders, revealed that Zanu PF officials and police officers were either mining or, in some instances, allowing their syndicates to mine. This comes after shutting out the villagers and gold panners who had rushed in from as far afield as Shurugwi and Kwekwe.

Police officers moved into the area last week under the guise of restoring order and also enforcing the Covid-19 lockdown regulations which, among other stipulations, seeks to ensure social distancing and disperse crowds.

There were, however, large numbers of people illegally mining gold last Saturday and Sunday, despite the hill being sealed off, including Zanu PF Masvingo political commissar Jevas Masosote and members of the women and youth leagues.

Masvingo Rural District councillor for ward 32 Stephen Munyenyiwa told The NewsHawks that members of the support unit stationed at Wondedzo Hill had taken over mining activities in the area.

Munyenyiwa said the police officers are running syndicates and demanding bribes from miners.

“I met the officer commanding Masvingo District on Wednesday to formally complain against the conduct of police officers who are stationed at Wondedzo Hill. They are running syndicates that are mining in the area and demanding bribes. Given that the security officers have their fingers on the gold, we want to know, who will guard the guards? I think they should be investigated because they are always drunk, assaulting people without hesitation. We want people from the community to benefit first before other people come in,” said Munyenyiwa.

Masvingo police spokesperson Inspector Kudakwashe Dhewa said law enforcement agents had sealed off Wondedzo Hill after the gold rush last week and now there are no activities going on.

However, he said police will investigate reports that officers protecting the area are involved in illegal mining activities including conniving with syndicates.

“We stopped operations at the site last week and if there is any activity going on it is illegal. We are going to investigate the issue so that we can take corrective measures as the law enforcement agents,” said Dhewa.

A detective with the police Minerals, Flora and Fauna unit said that it is not surprising to see top officials in the province allowing mining activities to go on at the site of the gold rush despite the Covid-19 outbreak.

He said senior government officials in the province were controlling cartels involved in mining and dealing.

“What you are seeing here is not surprising. There are hundreds of people despite the coronavirus, yes they are not worried about it, and they only want gold. They are in power but their hands are found in all places where the precious mineral is found and as junior cops we can do nothing because they work together with our superiors,” said the detective who requested not to be named.

Tanaka Chikwanda from Nerupiri in Gutu South said police officers were making a killing from illegal mining on the hill. He said his syndicate was allowed to extract gold ore from the tunnel on Friday night. They were supposed to stop at 6am, but had to continue until 10am on Saturday after the police officers demanded 15 bags of ore.

“They are collecting ore from those whom they give access. At times their ore is taken by police vehicles, meaning the deal is involving senior officers in the province. The guys (Police) are the ones who are running the show here; if you don’t pay them, then you have to leave,” said Chikwanda.

Masosote, who was also at the mining site, said it is not Zanu PF policy for members to demand a lion’s share of public resources and party members doing that are tarnishing the party. He said local communities should be given priority in mining opportunities.

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